Updated: Jan 25, 2019
Most healers have known the importance of #nature for #healing for a long, long time. Now conventional medicine is finally catching up. The Japanese 'tree bathe' at weekends to relieve stress and from next week, GPs in Scotland will be prescribing rambling and bird watching for a range of chronic illnesses.
We all know that when we lose touch with the outdoors and the greenery of nature, we tend to lose touch with our true selves. If you feel bad, go for a walk. If you still feel bad, go for another walk. Taking a walk in nature will improves your health on every level; physically, mentally and spiritually. The sounds of nature, the scents of the forest and the light as it cascades through the leaves and air all work to ease stress and worry.
Green is the colour of healing and of the heart and without a regular injection of greenery and nature energy around them, anyone is going to start feeling ill. According to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his/her time indoors. As part of our modern life – where we move from house to car to work to house – we have to build in time to reconnect with nature, to be able to cleanse, recharge and reset our mental, emotional and physical health. And the best thing about it is, it's absolutely free!
In Japan, Shinrin-yoku is the practise of forest bathing. This practise goes beyond exercise and focuses more on the senses than the hiking aspect of the experience. By focusing on the senses, the Japanese bridge the gap between the self and the natural world.
Dr Qing-Lee, author of How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, has found that even a little each week will help. Unplugged from technology, a two-hour forest bath will bring you into the present moment and allow you to slow down enough to still and calm the mind and soothe nervous tension. Qing-Lee's studies have shown that weekly Forest Bathing enhances anti-cancer proteins, improves cardiovascular health, decreases adrenaline levels and reduces anxiety and depression scores.
Recognising the effects of similar studies, from January 2019, doctors working in the ten GP surgeries on the Shetland islands will be authorised by the NHS Shetland, to issue “nature prescriptions” to patients to help treat mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, stress and other conditions. Patients will be given calendars and lists of walks drawn up by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds showing them particular bird species and plants, and suitable routes to take.
Some people may be asked to take their hoods down and stand still and silent for three minutes, in a form of open-air mindfulness, for instance. The NHS leaflets were entitled “Nature your soul”.
Nature your soul
Beyond the needs of exercise and mindfulness, what's truly refreshing is the fact that the Shetland GPs are embracing the importance of nature to the soul, entitling their pamphlets "Nature Your Soul". All of this has me feeling giddy and gleeful and full of hope for the turn that modern medicine is taking.
Closer to home, in County Wicklow, Ruthie Spurling of Hush Hikes regularly promotes mindfulness and immersion in nature with her guided 2-hour walks close to #Greystones. These walks promote companionable silence amongst hikers, communing in nature and sometimes combined with a yoga practice under the trees. The perfect weekend antidote to a stressful week at work or minding the kids.
Find your Sit-spot
If you'd rather practice alone, how about discovering and regularly using a #sitspot close to home. This is a practice that naturalists use to learn more about the world around them but can be used by everyone to improve your mental and emotional health. Find a safe sit-spot in a forest, field or beach close to home (so you can access it easily). Turn off your phone and just begin to look, really look. What can you see? Any animal activity in the area? What are they doing? What can you hear? What are the nature sounds around you? What can you smell or taste in the air? 15 minutes of connecting with your senses will quiet your mind, connect you to the here and now and connect you to the earth underneath you.
Using this sit-spot 2-3 times a week will develop a healthy routine and give you a safe place to go to when life's events and emotions begin to overwhelm you. So much better than staying at home and downing a large glass of wine!
Francesca Hennessy is a natural healer, shaman and crystal healer working from Greystones, in County Wicklow. She specialises in helping adults and children with anxiety to rebalance their energies, lighten the emotional and physical discomfort, to find peace and reconnect to their essential selves.
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