Today was Day 3 of my very first challenge & giveaway! The challenge: To walk for 15 minutes in the morning. The assignment: To post a picture of a tree. The giveaway: my Energy Body Reset program!
I really love trees, how about you? I love the way they look. I love the way they smell. I love the feel of rough bark and soft evergreen leaves against the palm of my hand. There are some that I touch and greet regularly on my walks. My favourite tree in town is a giant old oak tree. And it’s so huge, so awe inspiring, so breathtakingly beautiful, that I have yet to take a picture of it that does it any kind of justice. The tree pictured above was photographed during my son’s hike through a national park in Costa Rica. Isn’t it amazing? And it’s not even photoshopped!
The idea that trees have the power to heal us has now left the realm of airy-fairy, ancient mystical, and new age thinking. The healing power of trees is a scientifically proven fact. Trees are beautiful, provide shade, and absorb greenhouse gases. They not only raise your energy, they can get you out of a funk, relieve stress and anxiety, help you sleep, make you feel happy, and even help you lose weight! And now, new studies suggest that trees might also add approximately 1.5 years to your life! How, you may ask?
How Trees Promote Your Health & Wellbeing
According to author, Richard Louv, people living in high-tech societies often suffer from “nature deficit disorder.” One study found that contact with nature could help prevent mental health disorders and can help lift depression, improve energy, and boost overall well-being and mental health. Spending as little as 20 minutes somewhere green per day can raise you energy levels. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Essex found that taking a walk in nature reduced depression scores in 71% of participants.
According to research by psychologist Omid Kardan of the University of Chicago, trees have a significant independent effect on health and the effect seems to be most profound on residents of tree-lined urban areas. Trees are thought to trigger a happy-hormone cascade in our brains, by reminding us of the peaceful nature that echoes beyond the city confines. Health improvements include not only the inherently calming psychological effects of trees, but also a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and obesity.
Eastern cultures have long prized the healing power of trees. Doctors in Japan frequently recommend forest bathing as a low-impact means of stress relief. All it calls for is a full-bodied breathing in of the aromas of the woods, observing the branches and lush undergrowth of a forest, and listening to water run. Basically, stop and smell the roses, but in this case, the trees.
Studies conducted by the Japanese Forest Agency demonstrated a notable reduction in stress, anger, anxiety, and sleepiness among those who spent time in the forest. The participants’ levels of cortisol (the pesky hormone responsible for belly fat, just FYI) had also dropped significantly. Scientists also tested the participants’ blood and discovered an increased amount of adiponectin – a hormone that regulates glucose and fatty acids and combats Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other physical disorders.
Many trees have long been considered to have medicinal properties. Alder, Apple, Ash, Beech, Birch, Cedar, and Hawthorn alone have the combined power to heal almost everything! The simple act of moving among the trees and breathing in phytoncides, which are the woody essential oils responsible for the “pine” smell, can have significant immune-boosting benefits.
The neurons in our brains are constantly firing in order to keep up with the incessant barrage of e-mails, text messages, social media alerts, news updates, and other communications that surround us all day, every day. It’s no wonder people have trouble shutting down at night to sleep! Walking among trees is a great way to reset your body. Instead of lying awake, instead of reaching for a sleeping pill, try shinrin-yoku: forest bathing.
Forest Bathing Guide
- Leave your phone and camera at home and head to a wooded area – it can be inside your local park or even in your back yard.
- Wander without expectations. You may see wildlife, dogs, other people, or you may see nothing. You may not consciously feel anything, but you have much to gain from allowing yourself to be present.
- Pause to sit for 10-15 minutes.
- Pick up pine cones and press your palm against the bark of a tree. Research shows that tangible contact with a tree can improve mental illness, ADHD, depression, and headaches.
- If you venture into the woods with loved ones, make a pact not to speak. Harvest your energy and cultivate your senses.
Below is a poem I wrote after a mystical experience I had while walking in the woods one spring day.
So remember the next time you’re feeling tired, wired, stressed, depressed, sad, miserable, or just plain unwell: trees can heal you! Go outside and take a walk in the woods, or the park, or even a tree-lined street. And never mind what other people think – find a nice tree, give it a big hug, and tell it I sent you!