Guest post written by Ronna Schneberger, Certified Forest Therapy Guide and Naturalist
Parenting is a wild ride. When the kids were little I remember being so exhausted I could barely function. I wondered how I was going to raise these little people to be decent human beings when I felt so tired and grouchy all the time?
My best days were when I went to work. I am a naturalist and hiking guide in Banff National Park. I know what you are thinking: “Of course you liked these days – I would too”.
I always knew being in nature made me and the family feel good. I took the kids outside every day for walks and to play in the yard or in the forest. Yes even in the winter. It seemed to help all of us. Now I know why.
In the last few years research has come out explaining why being in nature feels so good. Scientists are now confirming what we intuitively know.
In the 1980’s, Japanese officials started inviting people to the forest to practice Shinrin Yoku which means “to bathe in the atmosphere of the forest” as a way to reduce stress. The results were outstanding but they didn’t know why. They spent millions of dollars trying to understand exactly what in nature provides these effects? There is now thirty years of research showing spending time in the forest is REALLY REALLY good for you.
When was the last time you had a forest fix?
Benefits from a few hours in the forest:
- Lower stress levels
- Reduced blood pressure and lower heart rate
- Increased clarity, critical thinking, and problem solving capacities
- Heightened decision making abilities
- An overall sense of wellbeing
- Better sleep
- Calms the nervous system
- Increased immune response
- Heightened creativity
- Increased happiness and sense of awe
Not bad for a couple of hours!
One study showed that 2 hours outside a day for three days increased participants Natural Killer Cell activity (these are your cancer and tumour fighting cells) by 56 per cent and stayed that way for 30 days. No drugs, just fresh air.
Scientists attribute these benefits to the trees which give off organic chemical compounds called Phytoncides (it’s like the trees bug spray). When we bathe in these microscopic oils, through our senses, they help increase our Natural Killer Cells, reduce stress, and blood pressure and much more.
Did you know:
15 minutes in nature reduces your cortisol (stress hormone) levels by 12 per cent
2 hours in nature increases your memory and attention span by 20 per cent
3 days in nature increases your cancer fighting blood cells by 56 per cent
Being a parent is a full time job. On top of that many people work full-time and to top it off, we now live with in an age of distraction, life moving faster than ever. There is no downtime anymore. Social media provides a distraction but not in a way that refreshes us.
Take a Nature Prescription
Evidence suggests that in order to reset your brain you need to participate in something that uses light attention (not direct attention). Time in nature is perfect as it allows you to notice what you hear, smell, feel, and see around you. When you do this it actually restores and resets the part of your brain that is used to think, make decisions and focus.
This applies to parenting as well. It takes so much focus to attend to busy little people that the brain needs a break; a walk in nature will help you and your little ones get some energy out and re-calibrate.
Best of all, coming back to yourself in a calm way and restoring your mind and body can happen in 15 minutes if you know what to do. Two hours is best but 15-20 minutes will do in a pinch. Everyone has 15 minutes.
The next time you are feeling overwhelmed by kids, work, and life, go for a leisure walk in the park or forest and tune into your senses. Your body will reset itself as it is designed to do. You don’t need to be good at it or even like it for this to work. Your body, mind and brain (and kids) will thank you. Best of all it’s free.
Morgan here – I have participated in forest bathing in the city and the foothills with Ronna and it’s pure magic. I highly recommend anyone and everyone participate in a formal forest bathing session with Ronna – she’s fabulous and the benefits are tangible and long-lasting. The link to her company page is in her bio below. She also does corporate team building events (hire her already!).
Ronna Schneberger is a naturalist, and interpretive hiking guide in Banff National Park. She is one of the first certified forest therapy guides in Canada. Ronna is sought after for her entertaining talks on the science of being in nature and forest bathing walks.