When I am in a forest, I view the world with wonder. I wonder how a tree can grow so crooked and still thrive. I wonder what the source of that beautiful waterfall is. I wonder how a sunset can have so many different colors. I wonder what animals are hiding in the woods watching me. I wonder what type of bird is singing. I marvel at how many different wildflowers there are and wonder if my phone app can identify its name.
All that wondering can add up to real health benefits. The Japanese coined the term “forest bathing” (or shinrin-yoku), which broadly means absorbing, in all of one’s senses, the forest atmosphere. Not simply a walk in the woods, it is the conscious and contemplative practice of being immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest.
Studies have found that “forest bathing” has positive physiological effects, such as blood pressure reduction, improvement of autonomic and immune functions, as well as psychological effects of alleviating depression and improving mental health. When I am in nature and especially in a forest, I certainly feel less stressed and breathe deeper, in addition to the muscle strengthening benefits derived from walking.
There are many beautiful forests in the Atlanta area to reap health dividends. You may want to start in your own backyard and neighborhood. To venture a little farther, these Empowerline blogs share multiple metro Atlanta places to visit:
- Find Fall Colors in Georgia – Empowerline
- Volunteer David Bohanon Loves Taking Groups for Long Hikes – Empowerline
If joining with others and venturing out in a group is more your speed, Eco Addendum is a local organization that organizes hikes and other activities. Most of their events are accessible and are tailored to accommodate diverse audiences.
I recently discovered the poems of Nikita Gill through social media. Her words speak so elegantly of my love of the forest and nature and the quest to grow and learn from all it teaches.
One day when you wake up, you will find that you have become a forest. You have grown roots and found strength in them that no one thought you had. You have become stronger and more beautiful, full of life-giving qualities. You have learned to take all the negativity around you and turn it into oxygen for easy breathing. A host of wild creatures live inside you and you call them stories. A variety of beautiful birds rest inside your mind and you call them memories. You have become an incredible self-sustaining thing of epic proportions. And you should be so proud of yourself, of how far you have come from the seeds of who you used to be.
~Nikita Gill, You Have Become a Forest