Archive for August, 2017

Forest Bathing for Health

August 9, 2017

Thanks to the Society for the Protection of NH Forests and the White Mountain National Forest, the AMC, local hiking groups, and Conservation Trusts, we in NH are amply blessed with opportunities to walk in calm, sweet smelling, breathing woodlands, wherever we live. For wheelchair accessible trails, check out

Depending on whether we need to unwind by a thundering waterfall, scramble over rocks and granite slabs, be up high enough so the world spreads easily around us with lots of room for everyone, or whether we need to slide our back into a sage old maple and just breathe with the tree, there are such havens in or near every town.

Naturalists have been writing about forests for centuries, but other professions join them today. In the US, there is an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guide Training program. In Japan, doctors may legally prescribe forest bathing as a treatment for illness. Tree medicine melds nature with mindfulness.

Studies document the calming value of a walk among the trees.  On walk days, hostility and aggression decrease.  The book, “Your Brain on Nature”, by Eva Selhob and Alan Logan proposes Vitamin G (for green) as an essential for our health and well being. Our expression, “Go take a walk”, is a standard sure cure when someone is upset or confused.

The British medical journal, Lancet (5/17), found that access to green space was a greater predictor of health than income, eating well, or doctoring more often.

It is just about impossible to stay mired in problems when ravens are calling to us or when we see a patch of blueberries loaded with berries so late in the season, or when a boulder seat presents itself just when we need a little break or a tree branch reaches out a willing assist over a stretch on the rocks, or from an open window in early morning, sensing a breeze bringing in cool fresh air.

One day, a pair of yellow warblers watched me intently from their perch as we met eye to eye.  I gasped silently at their utter beauty and paused to soak in that spot long after they flew off.  Every bird, tree, and four-legged is part of this dance we call life.

Anthropologist, Mary Catherine Bateson, (Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson’s daughter), encourages us to learn to use the word “we” to include all life on Earth, to shape everything we do, and to protect this Earth we share. Our health depends on our action.