How Forests Fuel Our Healing Potential
Humans are more disconnected from nature than ever—and our health is suffering from it. Born into biodiversity, we’ve largely evolved into concrete jungles that hinder our individual and collective well-being. Alongside urbanizing our landscapes and destroying the healing potential of the natural environment around us, we’ve retreated indoors under artificial lighting and behind screens. Such behaviors harm our mental, physical, and spiritual health.
The remedy? A good dose of woods wandering.
What it Means to Reconnect with Nature
Reconnecting with nature means returning home. It means acknowledging the part of ourselves that is wild and thrives in the natural environment. It’s not about taking grandiose trips to remote places. It’s about rediscovering and exploring the nature that currently exists in the peripheries of our lives: the parks, the gardens, the streams, the grass beneath, and the sky above. For some, reconnecting with nature means recreating it within their own urban environment. A simple and inexpensive way to do this is by adding a variety of plants into your home. Taking care of plants—and even just looking at them—has been shown to have similar effects as immersing yourself fully into the natural world.
How Forests Fuel our Healing Potential
Forests are special places of immense biodiversity. Spending even a small amount of time wandering the woods has massive benefits for one’s holistic health. Walking in the woods has been scientifically proven to positively affect human physiology: “A 40-to-50 minute walk seems to be enough for physiological changes and mood changes and probably for attention,” says psychology professor Kalevi Korpela.
Psychology professor Lisa Nisbet agrees: “People underestimate the happiness effect” of being outdoors. “We don’t think of it as a way to increase happiness. We think other things will, like shopping or TV. We evolved in nature. It’s strange we’d be so disconnected.”
The healing potential of the forest goes above and beyond boosting our moods. Spending time in forests can actually help us manage symptoms of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Forests can even strengthen our immune systems. In one study, researchers found that spending time in forested areas increased the activity and number of natural killer cells—the cells that destroy cancer cells. As if all that wasn’t enough reason to go wandering in the woods, being immersed in the natural world has also been shown to significantly correlate with increased life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, and mindfulness. With scientific findings like these, it’s hard not to see how being disconnected from nature is harming our health. It’s time to reconnect. For our mental, physical, and spiritual health, it’s time to go home.
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