Where the Wild Things Are- Forest Bathing

I saw a brief glimpse of the sun, the other day. I can still recall the warmth on my face. But there is more to nature than just getting sunlight. In the depths of cold air and lack of growing things I spend less time in the woods, more in reading about the woods and scrolling through photos of the past spring, summer and fall. The latest book was called "The Nature Fix" by Florence Williams. It was all about why people feel better in general after spending time in nature. She didn't have to convince me! For those who don't think it makes a difference, you might be right also. Studies have shown (yes, there are actual studies) that about 15% of the population isn't affected by being out in nature. It doesn't do anything for them. 

But let's talk about the other 85%. You may have heard of forest bathing. It is what they call spending time in nature in Japan and other countries in that area. Other countries around the world are also studying what makes us healthier and happier. The book goes into great detail on how the studies are done and what exactly they prove. The only real question seems to be is how much is enough.

Just having a green space to look at through a window can help. It relieves stress and calms people down. Spending time walking through a green area is even better. The results last for hours, even days. What is a green area? Scientists are asking that same question. So they tested individuals in city areas, in city parks, and in less groomed, wilder places. For a lot of people the city parks improved their well being, but it did depend on how many other humans were in the park and the other things that were occurring. High noise levels from traffic and buildings made it less likely that people felt calmer. Crime rates were also a factor. It is hard to  mellow out when you are afraid of being mugged or worse! 

So quieter, wilder areas were mostly the preferred forest bathing venues. Unless you were talking to someone who was afraid of bugs, bears, and weather. So how long did they find you should be out there? That varied widely with the culture. A little as a 15 minute walk several times a week, to a whole week a couple times a year were discussed. Most agreed that the longer lasting benefits came from 30 or more minutes a couple of times a week. Any is better than none.

Time spend unplugged, away from stress is beneficial to everyone.In Camphill this is seen in the life style. There are still many stressors in any life, but the rural, connected to the earth, environment helps us cope. 

The thing we all should be concerned about is that (in another study) it was found that children are not spending time outdoors, just playing. Only 10% get outside to play. Most are using technology for hours a day. It is time for an intervention. Drag a kid outdoors with you. And don't forget to treat yourself to outdoor time without the kid...