If there was any single best way to get closer to Mother Nature and experience the healing benefits of what she has to offer, I would say it is hiking in the woods. The forest is after all, the ultimate garden out there. I would imagine most avid gardeners would take to natural environments like forests, as a duck takes to water!
There are many benefits of hiking in the forest, and of late, there is even a term coined for it for those whose main purpose is to obtain therapeutic benefits from it, called “forest bathing”. The term seems to have come from the Japanese, who regard forests as “natural therapy centers”. And it’s not a far fetched concept.
Research conducted on forest walkers showed that hiking or walking in a forest increases the numbers of anti cancer cells in their bodies and thus, is particularly beneficial for people suffering from cancer. These findings were presented in the 2010 IUFRO World Forestry Congress in Seoul.
The research seemed to pinpoint that the natural airborne chemicals produced by the plants to protect themselves against pathogens called phytoncides could also be inhaled by a human walking in the forest, and this was beneficial in increasing the count of anti cancer cells in cancer patients. In other words, hiking in a forest improves your immune system.
The scents of the trees, plants, and herbs, combined with the sights and sounds of the forest, all seem to exert a therapeutic effect on the human psyche. Hiking itself is also very good exercise; as long as you are on a proper trail, it’s a very safe activity.
I would add further that from a metaphysical viewpoint, seeing that all living things emit electromagnetic energy, being in a forest is like being bathed in a sea of subtle, yet beneficial electromagnetic energy, which has to be beneficial for our spiritual, mental and physical health.
From my own experience, simply hiking in a natural forest environment DOES automatically lower my stress levels, almost as if on cue. I could be having a rough day, but just by stepping into a forest, my worries and cares seem so small when I’m surrounded by (what appears to me) as the wise benevolence of mother earth. This is why I make it a point to hike in the woods on a fairly regular basis whenever I get the chance.
As the scientists say, we humans were designed to fit into a natural environment. Urbanized living is just stressful and it’s increasingly clear we’re just not really suited for that in the long term. And perhaps it is this inner link to this earth of ours that is borne out in the urge to garden or spend time amongst natural greenery.
Let us make time to revel in the woods!