By Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener
As gardeners we spend a lot of time in our gardens; some might even say a little too much. There is always something to do. This time of the year when we’re not harvesting our vegetables, we are weeding, maybe still deadheading, amending the soil or mulching ready for next year, some more weeding, planting (fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials or spring bulbs), over-seeding the lawn and of course, more weeding. What we tend not to do, and I’m speaking very much for myself here, is to slow down or even stop for a few hours to enjoy our gardens, someone else’s garden or maybe just take a walk.
There is a new gardening trend in North America called ‘Forest Bathing’. Forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku was first developed in Japan in the late 1980’s and means to bathe in the forest atmosphere or to take the forest in through our senses. By being outside in a natural environment, you are letting in the sights, sounds and smells of nature which help calm, rejuvenate and restore. The intention of forest bathing is to slow down, taking the time to unwind and become immersed and connected to the natural environment.
I know that on many mornings, when I take a cup of tea and venture into my garden early, I am always filled with a sense of peace and wonder, and immediately take a few deep breaths and feel at ease ready to take on the day. So it comes as no surprise to me to learn that over the past several decades scientific studies have discovered numerous health benefits associated with being in both wild and natural areas. Researchers have found that many trees give off organic compounds that may be beneficial to people. Studies comparing the effects of walking in the city to those of walking in the forest have found that for those walking in forest environments, there was a significant reduction in both blood pressure and stress hormones (http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/the-science.html). Other health benefits include, improved mood, increased ability to focus, accelerated recovery from surgery or illness, an increase in energy levels, improved sleep and a boosted immune system with an increase in the Natural Killer (NK) cells.
Living in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough we are lucky enough to have an abundance of trails, parks and forests, all of which will be at their best in the new few weeks. After writing this article, I will be finding my inner peace in my local conservation area and I hope you will too.
For more information: http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html