The impact of Nature on Human Health
Author: Manuela Siegfried, Certified Forest Therapy Facilitator in Costa Rica.
I was born in Costa Rica, daughter of an adventurous biologist who taught me from a very young age to be with nature, to marvel and be amazed by the simplest and smallest things, to feel home in the forest, that all beings are part of a whole.
The love of nature never disappeared but life brought me down paths that perhaps took me a bit away from that close relationship with the woods. However, it remained a safe space for me, a refuge, an oasis of peace and clarity. When my father to suffer from died, began severe panic and anxiety attacks; my instinctive reaction was always to go out in the garden, with the trees, in the fresh air, with my dogs. It was the only place that calmed me down.
Life took many turns and one day I came across the concept of forest bathing or forest therapy, a practice inspired by the Japanese concept of Shinin Yoku: a slow walk where We focus on awakening the senses and lowering the pace in order to be with nature in a different way, giving us the space and permission fo do nothing in particular, to not have to achieve any goal.
In the early 1980s there was a health crisis in Japan due to high rates of stress. As a result, there was an increase in autoimmune diseases and cancer. The government initiated a series of studies in which the central question was always: what is the impact of nature on human health?
There is something called the biophilia effect, that innate affinity with nature. This is where the practice of fores therapy, being in nature, slowing down, giving ourselves permission to do nothing specific, to awaken the senses and focus on sensalions and not so much on thoughts, offers a very simple and accessible soltion to major problem of humanity
Discovering this practice been a wonderful experience.
A homecoming, where all is right. I dedicate myself full time to this and I feel very fortunate to be able to work in something that brings me a lot of well-being and to be able to share it with other people.
Aside from facilitating forest therapies in various locations, I also love to go hiking. Almost every weekend we go out as a family and with some of my beloved dogs to walk in the woods.
Connecting with nature while exercising and sharing as a family has also been a very healing practice
The results were very interesting. They found that being in nature slowly and consciously not only reduces stress hormones significantly, but also activates the functioning of the immune system and has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. In addition, they found significant increase in concentration and creativity.
We live in a society that rewards us when we are efficient and productive. The pace of life we lead is too fast and we are all the time in "doing mode", giving us little (or no) space to stop and allow us to simply "be' without having to be doing something specific. This imbalance, where rest is almost frowned upon, generates a state of chronic stress in people.
Added to this is lifestyle that is mostly spent in front of screens, inside buildings and less and less time outside.
We spent more than 99.9% of our evolutionary time in natural environments and that is where we feel comfortable
Nature really is everywhere. You don't have to go far to be able to "unplug" and connect" for a while. It can be an urban park, the garden of our homes or even a plant inside our home, the sky, the clouds, etc.
Understanding that we are nature and remembering this relationship we have with everything around us generates a lot of peace and calm. That sense of belonging, of coming home, should be a priority for all humans.
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