Forest bathing could be just the prescription you need!
by Hilary Harker
The impact of the Covid Pandemic, without doubt, has awakened greater insight into the need to be physically, and mentally healthy and conscious. It has brought fresh focus on a holistic approach.
South African pioneering heart transplant surgeon Christiaan Barnard said, towards the end of his life, “I have saved the lives of 150 people through heart transplants. If I had concentrated on preventative medicine earlier, I could have saved 150 million”.
That medicine is a healthy lifestyle and the prescription usually includes ways to manage tobacco, alcohol, physical exercise, diet and stress. For many years Shinrin Yoku (forest therapy) has been prescribed in Japan for managing stress-state and technostress. Every day we are bombarded with challenges such as deadlines, commuter traffic, financial concerns, demanding bosses, relationship issues, constant social media pressures which can all trigger a stress response. Since 2020 these have been exacerbated by the pandemic on so many levels.
Your body reacts perfectly normally by priming you for action when stressed. It can be a positive force when you need to perform well on a critical task, but experiencing stress over a prolonged period can lead to serious health issues on a deep cellular level. The body needs to release the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormones that are continually being triggered. In response to a ‘fight or flight’ trigger it was the physical reaction and action of our hunter gatherer ancestors that was the outlet for those circulating stress hormones.
Today, we may have an argument with someone at work, go back to our desk and ruminate about it, drive home and ruminate about it some more, then sit down to watch TV, still ruminating about the disagreement! There has been no outlet and the stress hormones continue to build up in your body. If you were able to switch off and listen to the body’s intelligence you would immediately feel the urge to get out into nature, take a deep breath and move.
Humans have a healing bond with nature, the Biophyllic force which supports physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Shinrin Yoku or forest bathing awakens this connection restoring balance in brain activity, autonomic nervous activity, immune activity and endocrine activity. This could be the prescription you need!
Written by Hilary Harker co-founder of Forestbathingcapetown