Forest bathing is an innovative, new wellness trend that reduces stress. Research shows that it lowers blood-pressure and the heart rate.
Levels of cortisol, the stress-hormone, are reduced too; rush and hurry are of the devil. We choose to be different and enjoy life in the slow-lane.
Forest bathing is part and parcel of this alternate lifestyle.
I recently asked a psychologist what he felt was the one most important activity that we could engage in to improve our mental well-being. We were in discussion about the virtues of blue zones, green living and more exercise; mindfulness, said he.
It does not take much imagination to note that these three factors, blood pressure, stress and heart rate, are the underlying factors of many chronic diseases.
Join me today in starting a new trend of forest bathing for your family.
Forest bathing is about the mindful soaking up of nature, using all of our senses; what we see, hear and smell. And we can taste too, of course. It usually involves some form of gentle exercise, such as a walk in the hills and valleys, canoeing down a river or taking a ride through the countryside.
And of course, it could be swimming, or even perhaps a gentle non-competitive game of golf.
Our home is situated in what we call the Garden Cathedral. Several times every day we are privileged to take a walk amongst enormous old trees, birds of every ilk flitting about, and a vegetable patch that is almost without equal.
Butternut and many different dark-green leafy vegetables are growing everywhere; a wild patch of lima beans and hens clucking around hunting for grubs catch the eye.
There's a mountain of fruit to be enjoyed freshly-picked every month of the year.
It is however, not a tidy place. We do not stress over that; there are weeds everywhere, and there is always something that should be planted, watered, or shaded.
It has ceased to be work; it's where we have rediscovered our souls.
Forest bathing means listening to the gentle murmur of the breeze as it wafts through the leaves of the bushes and trees. We love the little brown-jobs that call from the Halleria Lucida, feasting on the beautiful flowers, and even the raptors calling for our chickens' attention. The cicadas and bullfrogs all add to the chorus line.
Soaking up nature was never more glorious; medicine for the soul.
Invoking and being mindful of the scents is central to our forest bathing. Slowing down long enough to take the time to walk and garden is part and parcel of the lowered blood-pressure and stress levels we enjoy.
Relaxation in one way or another is essential to any life without medication; we choose forest bathing.
“I have to be alone very often. I'd be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning entirely on my own. That is how I refuel.”
Bathing yourself in a forest or garden often means there are sweet fruits to be enjoyed; for two-months we have a handful of blueberries every morning whilst bathing in nature.
Thereafter it is gooseberries and other sweet treats.
Mindfully soaking up the divine scent of lime trees in flower brings to mind the many dishes that we enjoy that are so greatly enhanced by citrus. We always use the pulp as well as it contains more than half of the nutrients and vitamin C; it is a waste to squeeze and use only the juice.
Whether it is in the making of jams or jellies, a green salad or hummus, the lime is central to our wellness; just seeing the flowers and young-fruit, taking time to enjoy the powerful sweet scent is central to our garden walks and forest bathes.
Seeing the secrets locked up in that tiny flower, can you imagine bottles of lime marmalade?
Forest bathing as we experience it, includes immersing ourselves in weeding the garden; the hands are busy, the mind is mildly concentrating not to pull out important plants, but the spirit and the imagination are free to wander. For us as Christians it is a good place to pray; for you it may be some other form of meditation.
I find it interesting that
in all five of the blue zones of the world, they all grow and eat broad-beans,
and they are all religious; the garden is where they find nourishment
for the body and where they practise some form of spirituality. It does not surprise me that longevity is the hallmark of these people.
These broad beans, or favas as they sometimes called, are in serious need of weeding and staking; already I can imagine the taste of the sweet young fruit, something you will probably never see at the greengrocer. You have to grow them yourself.
Planting broad beans is central to our gardening; they are the richest form of vegetable protein, and one of the very few sources of L-dopa, better than medicine for those suffering from Parkinson's disease. I cannot confirm that it prevents the condition, but I suspect it does. They are delicious in any case enjoyed straight from your plunge into forest bathing.
Grow broad beans for longevity is one of our newsletters; have you signed up yet?
Forest bathing involves some deep breathing; that could be because of exercise or simply a deep consciousness of our air in a yoga-like meditation.
Every day, some of our bathing would include quite hard work like turning a compost heap, or digging a trench for humus, or using the wheelbarrow to cart vermicompost to the seedlings.
These activities are done mindfully, conscious that one is working with nature, not against it; new scents emerge as one works the ground, often releasing the faint odour for example of citrus-peel buried months ago being released from the earth.
We usually enjoy deep, restful sleep after forest bathing in our garden; the gentle exercise, the smell of a rose and the taste of a berry plucked from a bush quieten the soul. It is where we find meaning in life.
We find it interesting that we rarely have the need to consult doctors; forest bathing of our sort brings a wellness to the body and a calmness to the spirit. Our immune systems are strong; on our right, and on our left, others fall prey to flu and colds and more serious illnesses. Mostly we are unaffected.
Forest bathing is more than hiking or gardening; it means mindfully soaking up nature with all of one's senses.
Go to the forest for a bathe, climb a mountain for the view, or plant a seed for organic food and you will find your mood lifting and your tiredness evaporating; you might even see fairies, or discover God.
As I update this page on the 27th April, 2022 some of the world is still under lockdown because of the virus. This little bug has shaken the planet having knocked off more Americans in three-months than all those killed in the Vietnam war.
The enforced stoppage has been for many a time of reconsidering what we have done to ourselves and the planet.
Forest bathing has for us meant better sleep, wholesome food and plenty of exercise at our green home; all of those speak volumes to our immune systems. More, it has been a time for reflection. I have a fanciful notion that for all of those who actively practise this way of living may find in it a kind of Passover; will coronavirus touch them as it has the rest of the world?
Only time will tell. Meantime we do wear masks in public and practise social-distancing but we certainly do not live in terror of this virus.
We went on a wonderful geocaching walk this morning, driving to Wittersham for the start. It led us along tracks and paths that we had never trekked on before and didn`t meet a single person throughout the day; just us.
We crossed many grassy fields surrounded with thick ancient hedges, over a few streams on quaint, small bridges, and followed a tiny farm lane at one stage where there must have been at least 200 Early Purple Orchids along the edges.
We passed a vast apple orchard, and the white blossom disappeared over the horizon, the air humming with bees; we then crossed a number of highly-perfumed Oilseed Rape fields in blinding yellow.
It was a wonderful walk and we found most of the hidden caches, some very cleverly hidden.
The sun shone down on us out of a blue sky; it was perfection.
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