- Recent research affirms the mental health benefits of forest therapy.
- It is considered an effective non-pharmacological intervention in treating anxiety and depression.
Readers of Enid Blyton, the iconic children’s author, may well remember her popular characters strutting into woods or similar forested lands after an emotional meltdown or a confrontational situation.
Whether it is the “Famous Five”, the adventurous boarders at Malory Towers, or the folks of the Enchanted Wood making their way to the Faraway Tree—the woods play a pivotal role in boosting their moods and well-being.
Psychologically speaking, Blyton’s works pay homage to the timeless English recreational activity of walking and spending time outdoors for health benefits. Today, this practice forms the central tenet of a type of therapy known as forest therapy.
Understanding Forest Therapy
Forest therapy is a type of therapy that includes a collection of outdoor activities to improve human health or welfare in a forest environment. Also known as “forest bathing”, it often includes exercises like:
- Adventurous play
- Forest meditation
- Forest yoga, etc.
Green Spaces And Mental Health
Research over the previous years has affirmed the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in green spaces. The benefits of the healing power of nature include better mental and brain health as well as reduced risks of cardiovascular and coronary diseases.
Daily stipulated time for strolling through the woods can also decrease excessive dependence on technology (like social media addiction) and encourage creativity, mindfulness, and relaxation.
A recent study at Virginia Commonwealth University, in fact, highlighted how living and walking in urban green spaces, as opposed to gray spaces, can improve residents’ overall health and help meet climate change goals. Gray spaces, on the other hand, are associated with negative exposure to heat, pollution, and stress levels.
Benefits Of Forest Therapy
Emerging research has affirmed that the benefits of forest therapy lie in reducing stress or mental fatigue and inducing positive emotions. Staying in and walking through forested lands reduce symptoms of hostility, untreated trauma, substance use, anxiety, and depression.
The therapy form is positively tied to better navigational skills and good quality sleep. It has several benefits for children’s and adolescents’ cognitive health, as well as psychological recovery and vitality in the adult and the elderly population.
Tips For Bettering A Walk In The Woods
Consider the following tips to reap the health benefits of the healing power of nature:
- Identify a safe green space and make time to visit it frequently. Adjust your schedule accordingly.
- Decide whether to take a stroll alone or with others.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes and stay hydrated.
- Refrain from using your gadgets while taking a walk in the woods.
- Consider changing your walking routes and styles sometimes for variety.
- Create opportunities for outdoor activities. Invite your loved ones to participate.
- Prioritize the reallocation of public spaces to be developed into nurturing green spaces.
Despite its many benefits, experts claim that forest therapy is not properly developed or incorporated into mental healthcare. In some countries, it is not even considered a valid therapy like psychotherapy.
However, thanks to the ease and accessibility of the therapy form, anyone can avail it, even without a therapist, provided he/she has a green space in close proximity. For instance, sometimes even enjoying a walk in a shady, cool, and quiet neighborhood can boost our mental well-being.