Heading for the trees is the perfect stressbuster
by Evelyn Holtzhausen
I think we should all spend time in a forest. Especially when the world crowds in on us and the pressure of living in our fast-paced achievement driven world becomes too hard to bear. In fact, we could all benefit from a session of Shinrin Yoku, (Forest Bathing) the Japanese inspired stress cure that is firing the imaginations of people globally.
And while living in the trees is taking the concept to an extreme, this is exactly what an octogenarian from India did after what was described in reports as a “tiff” with his wife. Eighty-year-old Gayadhar Parida climbed into a tree near his home and stayed up there for 50 years.
He did move trees once apparently, but only when the Mangrove he previously occupied was blown down in a storm.
Gayadhar took things a bit far, but the appeal of living precariously, high above the ground is not new; it has certainly held much appeal for me — since I can remember I have wanted to be lifted off the ground.
Mostly, however, it seems I fall down. My most dramatic plunge was when I almost fell through the ceiling of my home after trying to adjust the television aerial to remove snow from the TV screen. My daughter, who was about three -years-old at the time was in the bath in the bathroom directly below me. Luckily, I managed to grab onto a nearby roof beam and hold on for dear life as my world fell out from under me. I can still see Sarah standing in the bath covered in a sheet of dust, surrounded by bits of broken ceiling, like Casper the Friendly Ghost; her eyes as wide as saucers as her dad dropped in on her – or almost did.
Then there were trapezes roped onto low-lying branches that we could hang from to keep us off the ground. There was a spate of this, especially after seeing a popular film about trapeze artists in a circus. That trend lasted, for me, as long as it took to break an arm after I missed the swing and fell out of my tree.
Later there were the dreams to be nourished of living like Beat Generation writers like Jack Kerouac who wrote On the Road and Desolation Angels and who pioneered a new style of unpunctuated stream-of consciousness writing. He lived for a while in a fire-watch tower high above a northern Californian forest. Jack was supposed to watch for fires but mostly he enjoyed the view and the solitude — and of course he wrote.
Come to think of it, living in trees is where we all came from – or so the Darwinian evolutionists assert. As children we seem to know this instinctively, that’s why children love to play in tree houses.
It is, therefore, quite natural for us to want to head for the trees to escape from various stresses and strains.
And this is exactly what Shinrin Yoku offers. Forest bathing and forest therapy is the conscious and contemplative practice of being immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest.
Recent scientific research in Japan has found evidence suggesting that terpenes (the molecules responsible for the unique aromas of trees -their essential oils) have a proven, direct and measurable effect on the body and can enhance “natural killer cells” and boost our immune system. https://www.resources.soundstrue.com/podcast/clemens-g-arvay-we-are-eco-psychosomatic-beings
I imagine in fact, that the world could be a better place if we took a leaf from Mr Paridas’ tree if only for a morning or two of Forest Bathing.
* Evelynjohn Holtzhasen is co-founder of Forestbathingcapetown.