Last week I had the fortune of coming home for Easter. The East coast ordered us up chill nights in the 40s and sunny days in the 80s. (Layers of wool were applied and removed as needed.) While home in the Adirondack Park, we were sure to spend some time on the mountain-side; hiking the trails, drinking the spring melt water, and breathing in the evergreens. Some people say that a walk in the woods can be just what the doctor ordered and recently I found evidence supporting that claim.
Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese expression which is closely translated to “Forest Bathing” in English. Now, I know I’ve been living in California for a bit of time now, but I assure you that one does not literally take a bath in the forest. One simply takes in the forest. In other words, Take a Hike! Because studies suggest that time spent amongst the trees has a positive impact on health.
The hike we chose was on the New York Warren-Washington county line overlooking the East side of Lake George. The hike features a first lookout at a gazebo with views of Assembly Point, Cleverdale, Rockhurst, Long Island, and the Canoe Islands; and a second path that leads to a mountain waterfall. All in all, the hike takes about three hours, so we provisioned some apples and two full Nalgenes to make sure we kept our glycemic and hydration indexes at good levels. The trail is a true forest filled with coniferous and deciduous trees that truly take you back to nature.
Back to forest bathing: a majority of coniferous trees release organic compounds into the local atmosphere that have a positive impact on the body’s immune system. These compounds are referred to as “phytoncides” and are seen to help lower cortisol levels in the blood. Thus, they have therapeutic effects on blood pressure, stress, energy, and sleep. Beyond the simple benefits of fresh air and exercise, you are quite literally healing yourself when you choose to take a walk in the woods!
This has been a real method of therapy in Japan for many years; it has been shown to support mental clarity, as well as fight depression. I’m sure there is a lot more to it than just these organic compounds in the air, but it is interesting to know that we as humans have a symbiotic relationship with the breath of the trees. It is where we come from after all.
Praise to the trees.