What do I do while I'm stuck indoors?: If trees could talk? Peace, Strength and Healing from Nature

April 18, 2020

If trees could talk? Peace, Strength and Healing from Nature

 

By Darlene Morris, BA Sociology, CA Credentialed Teacher & Coherence Associates, Inc., Office Manager

 

 

Nature is wise. When it speaks, we should listen.

If mother nature were a person, I’d get a cup of hot cocoa (with marshmallows of course), a warm, soft blanket and pull up a comfortable chair to just sit down with her and absorb all of the wisdom she had the time or inclination to impart to me.


If a tree could give me a nudge or bit of advice on all the things he’s seen, I’d make sure to stop, listen to his advice and take notes.


And if, with her pleasant aroma, a flower enticed me to stop so she could share her secrets, I would make sure to not only breathe deeply, but pay attention as she spoke. I would make sure to pause what I was doing, and purposely breathe in a tad more deeply and breathe out a smidgen more slowly than normal and just sit in the moment. Not letting it pass me by quickly. I would take the time to enjoy the happy and peaceful vibes she was sharing with me.


What would they say I wonder?


Would it be, “Heh it’s OK. I’ve been here awhile. Seen a few things. This will pass and before you know it, this upside-down world will be right-side up again and all this hardship will be a blip in your past... A memory you look back on and sigh or laugh and reflect on with others who’ve also been there and experienced that.”

Maybe.
 

Perhaps they’d say, “You should try and learn from this experience. Better yourself. Pursue a new hobby or re-connect with others.”

 

Would they be a shoulder to cry on if I’d been hit with tragedy?

 

Or would they say, “I’m here for you. I always have been here for you. Remember whatever’s going on, you can lean on me for peace and healing. I can give you calm in the midst of the storm?”

 

I’m inclined to say all of the above, but especially that last one. Nature was here before us and

will be here after we have gone. There’s something grounding and peaceful in that. And when we look to nature, we can find much to bring peace and calm into our lives during the time we have on this earth.

 

I’m one of those sorts who can just sit and look at the ocean for half an hour and not even talk to my husband who’s seated next to me. Just soaking it in. Letting its peaceful vibe flow in and

through me. I know not everyone can do this for such an extended period of time without falling asleep or getting bored (yah, I said it, just keeping it real), but I encourage you to try it. If only for 5 minutes.

 

Seek nature out. The ocean, a lake, the park, even a small patch of trees or flowers at the end of your cul-de-sac or in your own backyard. It can work wonders on calming your inner storms and smoothing out your emotions. Try breathing a little slower and deeper than normal, but still

comfortably while setting a consistent pace. And just “sit” with nature, be fully present, trying

not to let your mind wonder to the future or the past. Smell the green leaves. Look at the colors

around you. Listen to the birds or the wind. Feel the warm sun on your face. Let it ground you.

Calm you. You may feel your muscles relaxing, your tense shoulders falling, your jaw softening.

 

That’s good. Your body is letting go of tension.

 

I’ve done this for years and only just recently discovered while researching for a book I’m writing that there is some real science behind the feel-good vibes I’ve been experiencing. “What do you know?” I thought as I was looking over my research, “There’s something to this. It’s not just me. Or in my head.”

 

I found a growing body of research that suggests spending time outside in nature, green spaces, community parks, and the like is scientifically good for a person’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Research is showing that hiking, running, strolling or even just sitting near trees and enjoying the peace and beauty of being in a natural setting gives us real, quantifiable health benefits.

 

Who knew that regular walks in the park (or forest if you’re lucky enough to live by one) could give us a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, an improved mood, better creativity, improved sleep and even accelerate our recovery from surgery or illness!

 

When we are in nature (a forest for the greatest benefit), we breathe in these wonderful little immune system helpers called phytoncides. Phytoncides are airborne chemicals, antimicrobial

essential oils, that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. These oils are responsible for many of the beforementioned health benefits such as reduced blood pressure, heart rate, stress, depression and anxiety. They may even help fight cancer.

 

These little chemical sluggers boost our immune system by triggering an increase in the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells. These cells kill tumor and virus infected cells in our bodies!

 

Japanese “forest medicine” is the science of using nature to heal yourself. Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, offers a cure for what some call in our modern society nature deficit disorder. Physician Qing Li, chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine wrote a book Forest Bathing that is a wonderful guide to how trees can help you find health and happiness.

 

So, the next time you’re surrounded by trees and smell that wonderful fresh, clean and earthy

green smell imagine every breath as an immunity system booster. Studies have even shown that by simply sitting and gazing at trees you can reduce your blood pressure as well as the stress related hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

 

I know you may be thinking, “Okay, Darlene, this is all well and good, but I’m kinda trapped

here at home. How can I soak in nature when I can’t get to it?”

 

Well, you have a point, but I have a couple solutions.

 

Most amazingly, research has shown that even if you can’t physically be near trees, you can still obtain some of the powerful benefits trees and other plants have for us simply by looking at

nature through a window! Research found that those patients who had a window in their hospital room with “green views”, experienced less postoperative pain, had shorter postoperative stays and even slightly fewer postsurgical complications compared to those patients who had no view or a view of a cement wall. Wow! 

 

First, solution for being trapped at home: Use your window like the patients in this study. Open

the window, look out at the trees or other plants if you have any outside, listen to the birds, experience what you can.

 

Second, go virtual. It sounds crazy but, you CAN glean some of the same positive effects of

nature by experiencing it virtually. It’s true that not all of your senses will be engaged, however,

your sense of hearing and sight will be. You may not be able to smell the crisp clean scent of the forest, but you will be able to see the tree lined mountains and hear the flowing stream.

 

Just last night, while feeling particularly “shut in” and a bit down, I turned on the Disney+

station that I just purchased for my daughter and found a Disney Nature show featuring the

rugged beauty and wildlife of Yellowstone National Park.

 

I thought, “Ahhh,...nature! I’ve got to get it where I can.”

 

So, a couple clicks later and I was watching a wolf pack hunt for food, a mom river otter and her pup playing and being stalked by a hungry chayote (creepy yet somehow cute too), looking and listening to Yellowstone’s biggest waterfall, and watching the snow fall and cover the rocky

mountains and forest in a beautiful blanket of snow. After watching this program for 40 minutes,

 

I was a bit in awe of the beauty of Yellowstone and, most importantly, my spirits were lifted. It

works. Even virtually if need be.

 

I encourage you to reach out to nature to re-charge, renew and replenish yourself. Nature is there for us when we need it. She’s never busy with a meeting or late due to traffic. I believe she wants to help and whispers to our inner-self words of peace and healing. We just need to take a moment to stop and listen.

 

References:

Li, Qing (2010). Effect of Forest Bathing Trips on Human Immune Function. Environmental

Health and Preventative Medicine. 15(1): 9-17.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/

 

Ulrich, RS (1984). View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery. Science. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6143402

 

Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health. New York State Department of Environmental

Conservation. http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html

 

Livni, Ephrat (2018). Japanese “forest medicine” is the science of using nature to heal yourself-

wherever you are. Quartz.

https://qz.com/1208959/japanese-forest-medicine-is-the-art-of-using-nature-to-heal-yourself-

wherever-you-are/

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