In Honor of Earth Day: Healing with Trees

Myra Oney, CHHC, RMT

The health benefits of going for a walk are well known. Research has shown that exposure to sunlight, connecting with the natural elements, and the activity of walking, are all beneficial. Spending as little as 10 to 15 minutes doing an outdoor activity significantly improved the health of people with dementia. Walks in nature reduce stress levels and increase people’s self-esteem, activity and sociability.

Most of us, when we walk, walk at a brisk pace to increase cardio strength. In honor of Earth Day here is something different to try.
Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is a cornerstone of Japanese health care. It consists of simply walking in a leisurely manner in the woods, taking time to connect with natural surroundings. During this “walking meditation,” one connects with nature, engaging all the senses. Connecting with trees can be particularly powerful. Research has shown that many trees give off organic compounds that support the “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of the immune system’s way of fighting disease. Walking or sitting in a forest can:

  • Boost immune system functioning, with an increase in the body’s Natural Killer cells.
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve mood
  • Increase ability to focus
  • Accelerate recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve sleep

Since October of last year, doctors in Scotland have been able to prescribe a walk in nature as part of a non-drug approach for treating a variety of conditions. The best thing is that we don’t need a prescription to go for a walk!

Sources for further reading:
Forest Bathing
Do trees talk to each other?
Doctors in Scotland

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