Come Forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. -William Wordsworth
There is no shortage of inspiring nature quotes from poets and writers, and creative seekers. So many people, even if far removed from easy access to the natural world, have some awareness of the goodness of getting out into nature, even if just for health reasons and clear air to breathe.
Many Recovery centers and treatment programs are now incorporating more opportunities to escape into the transformative natural world, while some are creating their entire programs around immersion in
nature. And there is no shortage of scientific evidence that supports the benefits of nature on a person’s health and well-being.
A study in Japan, to further an understanding of nature’s efect on stress levels, yielded a new trend, Shirin-yoku (“forest bathing.”) The study found that participants who spent large amounts of time basking in the forest, showed a decrease in cortisol levels, a hormone that contributes to the body’s mood, motivation, and fear. Low cortisol levels have a host of other positive efects on a person’s health and wellbeing as well. As do the plant chemicals, Phytoncides. Think of these as high quality plant essential oils, which are constantly being difused out in the forest. These antimicrobial compounds have a positive efect on the body’s ability to produce white blood cells, which strengthens the immune system and wards of abnormalities that could cause disease and other health problems.
Not only that, but so many studies have found that immersing yourself in nature combats depression, and other mental imbalances. The mind processes a lot less information in the calm and peace of natural surroundings. For addicts and alcoholics, and those with over-active mental chatter, this can mean a growing spaciousness in an otherwise overstimulated and chaotic mind, a sort of natural escape and catalyst for relief- you might say a positive channel for that feeling of craving.
When we can start utilizing that craving for escape as a positive messenger, a nudge towards self-careincluding, but not limited to, the need for connection to the natural world, we will begin to feel less overwhelmed by it, and more directed into positive action from it. We may even start connecting it as a craving to get out into nature. This re-association is the stuf that re-wires the brain, the stuf that new beliefs are made of, the stuf that creates a new reality, and delivers spiritual awakenings.
Looking for a spot to begin your forest bathing habit? Below are 5 highly recommended nature spots in WNC (most easily accessible from the Asheville area.)