Depression Vs Nature

This week we explore how nature affects our mental health and some interesting ways to restore our mental balance.  Research says that one in six people will experience depression at some point in their life. Depression is a prolonged state of sadness which severely affects how one feels, thinks and acts. It can strike anyone, anytime and leads to a variety of physical and emotional problems that can affect one’s ability to function at work and home. In today’s stressful world it is important to become aware of how the environment we live in affects us and actively seek out ways to take care of our mental health. Let us take a journey into our mind, through nature.

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Note: This article covers tips to take care of our mental well being through nature. It is meant as a preventive plan of action and is beneficial for most people . Nature therapy is not a substitute for medical or psychiatric treatment. People with serious psychiatric disorders should consult qualified medical practitioners and seek a balanced approach to treatment.

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ADVICE FROM A PSYCHOLOGIST

By 2020, mental health disorders, depression in particular, are projected to be overwhelming health-care concerns, and cities are far from a panacea for depression. Indeed, rates of depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are consistently reported to be much higher among urban residents. Here’s some good advice from Anita R., a clinical psychologist.

“Mental health remains one of the most problematic areas because it is least understood and yet the most stigmatised. People are still hesitant to ask for help. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that everybody needs to go for help. There are a lot of things that we can do to prevent at least some of the seriousness of suffering.  I personally believe that it’s a balance that we are not able to bring about in our lives.

Things like looking after your wellness which includes physical fitness, eating the right kind of diet, avoiding certain kinds of unhealthy habits, getting on your nature walks, just spending time outside and, definitely working on your own self, your interests, your hobbies because that kind of all-around wellness gives you a much better safety net to manage mental health issues.

When we reconnect with nature I think the most important part for me is that you start reconnecting with yourself and for me that is a huge, huge way to improve your mental health because even if nobody else in the world tells you that you are a good person or a person of some worth, just reconnecting with yourself and helping yourself to see what you truly are can make you a much happier person.”

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WALK IN THE WOODS

Here’s a list of some simple forest meditations to try out in nature.

Sense walk – Walk or sit silently in the forest. Focus on any one sense at a time for a short period of 5 to 10 minutes. Make a note of all the unique things you can observe and sense. Repeat the exercise with another of your senses. Notice how each sense reveals something new about the nature around us. The aim of this exercise is to bring us into the present moment and stop our thoughts from leaping into the past or future.

Gratitude tree – The aim of this exercise is to create a picture of a tree on the ground with things you find fallen around you. Every branch of the tree you create should be decorated with something you are grateful for. Find things to be grateful for in nature, in people around you and in your self.

Soaking in the forest – Find a place in the woods that calls out to you. Sit silently and observe the peace in nature around you. Imagine every pore in your skin is soaking in this tranquility and absorbing the calm of the forest like a sponge. Carry the calm of the forest back with you and return to it anytime you need it.

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SCIENCE

A group of researchers from Stanford University thought the nature effect might have something to do with reducing rumination. Rumination is what happens when you get really sad, and you can’t stop thinking about your glumness and what’s causing it: the breakup, the layoff, that biting remark. Rumination shows up as increased activity in a brain region called the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a narrow band in the lower part of the brain that regulates negative emotions. If rumination continues for too long unabated, depression can set it.

In general, decreases in rumination are linked to so-called “positive distractions,” like taking part in a hobby or enjoying a long chat with a friend. You’d think that walking in uninterrupted nature wouldn’t provide many diversions from a whorl of dark thoughts. Surprisingly, the opposite seemed to be true: Natural environments are more restorative, the authors write, and thus confer greater psychological benefits. (article link)

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Almost all antidepressant medications are thought to work by enhancing the availability of serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone used in nerve cell communication hence it is also called “the happy chemical.”

There are many ways we can enhance the production of serotonin in our brain, naturally. Exercise is one of them, so is sunlight and spending time in nature. After a nature session, brain scans showed a sizeable reduction of blood flow to the region of our brain linked to sadness, withdrawal and general grumpiness.

Using nature to bring back awe, wonder and fascination in our lives can help short-circuit the spiralling cycle of depressive thoughts.

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END NOTE: Ultimately each one of us has to take the responsibility for our own mental health and well being. Reconnecting with nature is a simple and effective way. If you have any personal stories of healing to share, please add them in the comments section to inspire others.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Photos of Peace

Is it possible to capture calm? So that we may return to it when we need it. Can we freeze a moment of serenity and save it? So that it can be shared to spread some peace in turbulent times.

This month we explore some engaging games and activities in nature, based on the art of photography. Almost all smartphones carry a camera now. While we are often caught up in it’s web of apps, there are simple ways to use this tool for helping us find our calm and creativity.

Let’s see how we can turn our device of distraction into a mode of meditation.

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SCIENCE

Our visual sense is the strongest sense. We are influenced by the quality of light, the colour of light and also the source it comes from. It affects our mood as well as energy levels. The colours of nature soothe our mind and the play of light in the forest helps to break our pattern of thoughts. Certain fractals, the geometric self-repeating patterns present abundantly in nature activate the parts in our brain, which are involved with regulating emotions. It is the same region, which is active while listening to music.

Being out in nature has multiple benefits for our mental, physical and emotional health. Check out some interesting links, films and articles on our resources page. Large scale research from UK, found fewer cases of disease amongst people who lived near parks or open green spaces. Studies also showed that people with no windows or unattractive views took longer to recover when compared to those who could see trees and grass from their hospital windows. Similarly classrooms with windows revealed better performance by students and lesser incidents of violent behaviour.

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ACTIVITIES

Here’s a set of creative exercises in nature that use the camera to create some calm. You can try them on your own, but it’s more fun when you go out with a group of friends. It’s a great way to get new insights and create new bonds.

Directions: The only points to note are – move in silence and go slow. Think less and feel more.  Spend 10-15 minutes for each activity in a particular area. Group together to share your pictures and thoughts for a few minutes. Walk in silence for 10-15 min to another area before continuing the next activity.Cone-web

Close-up
Take a close-up shot of something in nature that represents a part of you. Look closely, open your senses and start observing. Connections will begin to appear. Notice the things that you connect to.

Library of Textures and Patterns
Become aware of the myriad textures and patterns that are present in nature. In the bark of tree, among rocks by the river, in the wings of a butterfly…and so much more. Try and capture some calming textures and patterns on your walk.

Visual Story
Create a story through a set of images. No words required. Build a relationship between your images and your imagination. When doing this activity in a group, you can either choose a theme for the story before you start or share your pictures in a circle and see what story emerges.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
~Ansel Adams

Snapshot of silence
Take a few minutes to compose a picture in your head that evokes peace and stillness. As you walk in nature try to recreate a frame which comes close to the picture in your mind or click a picture that echoes the same emotions.

Portrait of a tree
Get to know a tree. Look at it from different angles. Try to find out it’s story. Once you have spent some time with the tree, capture the essence of the tree in a portrait shot. If you’d like to know more about your tree later, you can download the plantsnap app.

* If you have a group size larger than 10 people, it is advisable to break into smaller groups of 5 or 6 for sharing and discussion at the end of each activity. It will save time. Remember, conversations with nature should take priority over conversations with people in this walk.

Photos-of-peace-poster-webDownload a free poster to create an event. You can easily add details in the blank space using sites like Canva.com | Download link

FILM

We are creating a collaborative short film to explain this concept and spread it to a larger audience. If you would like to join in, simply send us a set of your pictures based on the games mentioned above. We will make a selection from all the entries and create a montage film.

Please note: Only share pictures that have been taken by you or those for which you have permission. You may post your pictures on our Facebook group. Or send it by email : healingforest(dot)org(at)gmail(dot) com
Last date for submission of pictures is 15th October 2018. Please use #photosofpeace when posting the pictures on our fb group or in the subject line of your email.

This film is being created in the giving spirit of the trees. There will be no names, no sponsors and no logos in the film. All people will be free to use the film as they please. A download link to the film will be available to all participants by 31st October 2018.

* List of people and cities participating. Join our Facebook group or add your name and city in the comments to show your support in case you plan to participate and we’ll update our list.

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“A photo is not just a memory of a moment, it is also an expression of You”

END NOTE: Let us know your experience when you get a chance to try out these wonderful games and activities.  If you have more recommendations for some fun nature based activities with the camera, please add them in the comments below to grow our collective knowledge.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

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India’s Healing Forests

Explore some fascinating forests across India and find out the remarkable ways in which forests can heal our body, mind and spirit.
Film Duration: 51 minutes | Language: English

TRAILER

REVIEWS

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India’s Healing Forests is a remarkable and enlightening exploration of the many ways that the well-being of people is deeply interwoven with forests. The film demonstrates that at all times on our life’s journey — from childhood to death — our relationships with trees and other forest creatures are vital parts of our lives. This is a reciprocal relationship: in our modern world we need forests and forests need our care.” ~ David George Haskell, author of The Songs of Trees and Pulitzer finalist, The Forest Unseen. Professor, University of the South.”

To be the first to catch the film when it comes to your city / know when it is telecast / get the youtube link when it is uploaded simply fill in this google form:
https://goo.gl/forms/6236h6wJDSIua94G3

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DIRECTOR’S NOTE

All our knowledge comes from nature and yet nature is a source of many mysteries.

Travel with us on a journey through lush rainforests, sacred groves, cloud forests, city forests, food forests and deep valleys of the Himalayas to unravel some of these mysteries.

India is a country of breathtaking natural beauty. What is less known is India’s wealth of ancient knowledge about connecting with nature to create a more meaningful life. New science as well as ancient wisdom is telling us something of great importance. The environment we live in is linked to our health. It affects us. It alters us. It is not separate from us.

The film unfolds through inspiring stories of people whose lives are intricately woven with forests. Through their insights as well as scientific findings we explore the remarkable healing powers of nature.

We hope to leave you with a feeling of calm and clarity, and some important clues to help you solve one of the greatest mysteries of your life – How to create a healthier, happier life for yourself and your loved ones.

The forests are waiting.
Come home.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Here’s a link to some of the groups and initiatives featured in the film:

Chirag School, Kumaon | Prakriya Green Wisdom School, Bangalore | Pravah, New Delhi | New Delhi Nature Society | Sadhana Forest, Auroville | Green Hub | Hindustan Kalarisangam, Kerala | Journeys with Meaning | Mawphlang Sacred Forest, Meghalaya | Foundation for Contemplation of Nature | Aranyaani Natural Food Forest | Sehat Van | Lung Care Foundation | I am Gurgaon | Anita Rajah, Clinical Psychologist | Alaap, Kumaon | Navdarshanam, Tamil Nadu | Institute of Palliative Medicine, Kerala | Aranyaka Upanishad, Uttarakhand || Healing Forest Walks

Film Credits:
Film: Nitin Das | Producer & Commissioning Editor: Rajiv Mehrotra | Executive Producers: Tulika Srivastava and Ridhima Mehra | Music: Borrtex | Voice: Mina Lepps | Assistant: Arghadeep Barua | Advice on Sound: Asheesh Pandya | Constructive feedback: Sudhir Tandon, Sunil Chauhan, Neelam Ahluwalia

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FORESTS AND YOU

In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, we are spending lesser time in nature. Signs of this rapid change are showing up not just in our own health but also the health of our society and our planet.

This film is a great tool to reconnect people with nature because it shows the multiple benefits of nature across different age groups. Perhaps you may see a little bit of your own life reflected in parts of this film. What you may also find are some simple ideas to overcome challenges that appear at different stages of our life.

We hope you will join us to hear what the forests have to tell you.

 

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Please fill this google form to know when the film is telecast or when it is available to watch online for free or when a screening + nature walk is organised in your city.

https://goo.gl/forms/6236h6wJDSIua94G3

Beyond the film, the idea is also to introduce the concept of healing forest walks to you. Along with the film details, we’ll send you an excellent collection of forest games and activities. For more information on healing forests you can visit our resources page.

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Relationship lessons from Nature

Our world is made up of relationships.

In life, we are constantly moving through a sea of changing relationships – not only with other lives, but also with our surrounding environment and most importantly, with our own changing selves. Sometimes, when life takes a wrong turn and one ends up in an unhappy place, it can be a good practice to re-examine and re-look at our relationships.

Nature is a great place to untangle our thoughts and find fresh perspectives. It’s because in nature, all the mysteries of life unfold before us. All we heave to do is learn to observe and become aware. In this month’s guest post, Katriina Kilpi from Belgium shares some beautiful insights from her own trysts with nature.

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ABOUT
Katriina Kilpi leads a NatureMinded consultancy that works to research and promote nature´s wellbeing effects on humans; a Forest Mind guide, and a student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in program about Outdoor Environments for Health and Wellbeing. This summer she is co-organizing the first ‘International Forest Therapy Days’ event to help connect and promote the important work of forest therapy practitioners and scientists around the world. She is an expat Finn who has found her magical forest in the scarcely forested Belgium.
https://natureminded.be
 | http://www.forestmind.be | http://www.foresttherapydays.com

LeafWhat can nature teach us about relationships?

There’s this place in my favourite forest, where big old beeches grow. It´s a special spot, because at the bottom of those beeches, there grows a thick layer of moss.

This is the place where I go to when I feel like I can’t handle it alone. When I need to be held like a baby. I go and lean against one of those beeches, with my feet pressed into the soft moss, and I swear, the tree closes in on me, like arms reaching around to hold me.  I feel listened to, without any words being exchanged, and I feel consoled. There’s no judging. Only acceptance and compassion. As a thank you for listening, I value this forest, and do my best to protect it now and in the future. It’s probably exactly what the tree would want from me. A perfect exchange for our friendship.

Successful relationships are formed for mutual benefit.

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My son has also established a relationship with his nearby nature. One day he pointed out to me that of the two bushes next to his tree house, one was a nice one while the other was a naughty one. Maybe the thorns in the naughty bush has something to do with his judgement. So, according to this little man, the bushes not only have their own personalities, but he has also established a relationship with the bushes (one that is less close, obviously).

We quickly judge the personality of someone based on their behaviour towards us. A greater understanding would develop if we realise that personalities and qualities are shaped by the outer environment as well as the inner genetic make-up. In the design of nature, each and every life form has a unique role to play.

So for a deeper relationship to develop, one must start with a better sense of observation.

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For the creatures or people, we do know, we often overlook their value and start taking them for granted. It doesn’t dawn to us that we are taking these people (or creatures) for granted before someone else recognises their uniqueness or, what’s worse, before we lose them. I once moved to Hawaii and found the myna birds, with their oversized heads and their yellow masks, rather comical looking. To me they looked funny and mischievous, always up to no good. I liked those birds. After some years, I had got so used to them that when my mother came to visit and wanted to photograph those little birds, I found it a waste of film. Sustaining a relationship requires a continuous effort, otherwise it loses its vitality.

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And finally in nature and human nature, there are surprisingly many similarities. Though romantics often idealize nature, there is pain and suffering, continuous competition, sickness and loss in nature too. A relationship is incomplete without the acceptance of the imperfections.

Nature has a lot to teach us. Though we all fight for our survival: for sustenance, for shelter, for the possibility to maintain our species – the cycle of life would not be possible without interconnections, interdependence and impermanence.

Nature helps us to mirror our relationships within the human community and allows us to practice our relationship skills early on. Nature is a compassionate and patient teacher, as it doesn’t push us, but allows us to find it out ourselves. The relationship we have with nature, the backbone to our wellbeing, can teach us most about ourselves.

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END NOTE:
Our world is made up of relationships. A set of intricate links and bonds, tie us to everything in this Universe. These posts on our blog are created, not just to share interesting perspectives and new findings but also to link up with you and build a community of like minded forest friends. Know more>>.

Do share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. You can also subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

 

Art of Nature


Art can be healing, just like nature. When we create art in nature, we are connecting to something deep within ourselves. That which is the source of all ideas, inspiration and insight. It gives us new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with and a new understanding.

“An understanding that we can create art out of anything, including our life.”

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FOREST ART WALK

A silent walk in nature to appreciate and create forest art. Over the course of many months and trials, we have come up with a captivating format for an art walk in nature. It is a creative way to engage with the forest and is enjoyable for all age groups. Here’s a simple introduction to the concept.

Walk in the forest. Find interesting things. Create art.
First as a group. Then in pairs. And finally on your own.

RULES
1: Don’t damage the forest. Use what’s fallen or about to fall.
2: Take only pictures. Let everything you create, return back to nature.
3: Leave no trace. Spread your artwork in nature before you leave.

DIRECTIONS
Group art:
To begin with, explore a small circle of forest area around you. Everyone tries to look for something that represents them as a person or something unique. When ready, the group forms a circle to do a round of introductions. People introduce themselves by placing their object in the centre of the circle and explaining why they chose it. One by one, the objects are placed together in a way that they form an art piece. 

After the first round, the group walks silently for 15 minutes or so and moves to a different place.

Pair art:
Work in pairs. The pair collects 10 objects from the forest ( 5 per person) and together they create nature art in 5 minutes. Once everyone is ready, the whole group goes for a gallery walk to visit each pair’s artwork. You can try to guess what the pair has made or hear their interpretation.

Walk silently for 15 minutes. Observe the beautiful art of Nature.

Solo art:
Working on your own, you have to create a forest friend. A piece of nature art, that has a face on it – eyes, nose, mouth. Once your forest friend is complete, give him/her a name. When this exercise is complete, you will find that the forest has suddenly come alive with many forest friends.

End with a circle of sharing. People share insights and experiences from the art walk, so that individual learning can become collective learning.

forest-element-twigBonus:
Carry an empty bag on the walk. On the way back, the group can clean up the forest by clearing some of the trash they find. Healing the forest is a healing experience too.

Download forest art walk poster files at this link.

FORESTS AND YOU

Our life is but art in the canvas of nature.

Please try this art walk with your friends and family. Even more importantly, teach others and share this format in your circles. Forests all over the world are fading away. We need to recreate our relationship with nature urgently.

 While science can help us create a better life, we need art to create a better world.

The idea is simple and engaging for all age groups. People across the world have held forest art walks in their cities. The aim is to share beautiful images of forest art so that we can inspire more people to connect with nature.

Join our facebook group – ART of NATURE to share your art and link up with like-minded folks from different forests and cities of the world.

Note: All walks are organised in a personal capacity by individuals who share a close connection with nature. HEALING FOREST is not directly involved with any event. We are an awareness project to spread ideas. Read more about us here.

SCIENCE OF NATURE WALKS

When we move in any environment, we are activating different networks in our brain.There is the logical, information processing, decision-making executive network. Then there is the network, which keeps us balanced and oriented and finally the default network.

The default network is our free mind, which wanders here and there. It kicks in when your task based executive network begins to rest. Default network is also credited with producing empathy, creativity and important insights.

A great nature experience allows the executive network of the brain to rest and recharge itself. It also engages the default network of the mind in a positive way.

Scientists using brain imaging techniques to study the effect of nature on our brain found a specific part of the brain being activated when we are relaxed in nature. This region is directly linked to the dopamine reward system of the brain, which leads to a higher likelihood of people forming emotional bonds – not just with other people, but also with nature. This has proved to be an incredible finding.

For links to more articles,  books, films and research please visit our resources page.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple:
Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Waterfall Healing – 7 ways to find calm

When life sends you rain, find waterfalls. This month we explore a collection of short waterfall meditations to help you find your calm.

Waterfalls have this unique ability to pause our train of thoughts, bring our awareness to the present moment and fill us with awe. Seeing the movement of water on it’s journey to the ocean reminds us in many ways of our own journey in time. For a brief moment one is conscious of the larger but unseen laws that govern the flow of nature and life.

Given below are 7 short waterfall meditations. Simple ideas and thoughts that one can contemplate on, while enjoying the beauty and wonder of the waterfalls.  Find an image or words that call out to you and spend a little time absorbing it’s essence.

*Note: Some of the gifs on this page may take time to load on slow internet connections. We hope you patience is amply rewarded.

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Fall. Rise. Repeat

Dance

Everything Changes

Slow down. Find yourself.

Flow

Let Go

From Nothing. Into Nothing.

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We hope these words and waterfalls encourage you to explore the hidden peace, power and potential that lies within each one of us.

It would be really nice to hear your reflections or meditations with waterfalls. Please add to our collective knowledge by sharing your insights and experiences in the comments section.

END NOTE: You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

 

10 Nature Connection Activities

Parks, forests, coasts, urban gardens, backyards, or any space where nature is predominant are prime places for nature-connection experiences. The activities shared here may be done alone, in pairs or with groups.

As with any outing in nature, please be aware of any potential hazards, such as poisonous plants, slippery rocks and bugs that bite.

1︱Grounding with Yoga

Find a quiet place in nature, take off your shoes and stand on the earth. Feel the energetic charge from your legs, ankles and feet compared to the feeling of the ground. Stand for a few minutes until you feel stable. Then, do the following three yoga poses: Mountain Pose, Warrior I Pose, and Tree Pose (detailed here). Synched with the breath, these poses bring fresh oxygen and phytoncides (natural compounds that increase blood cells which fight cancer and tumors) into our lungs, tissues and organs. They also ground our bodies and can give relief from inflammation, pain and stress. (Source)

 

2︱Opening Senses

Find a quiet place and get comfortable either standing or sitting on the ground. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and wait to feel grounded. Become aware of your environment by focusing on one sense at a time. Tune into sound and notice the sounds near and far, the silence in-between sounds, and the whole soundscape. Tune into touch and notice the texture and qualities of the air on your exposed skin. Spread your fingers (and toes) and feel the air between them. Notice the the warmth and coolness from the sun and shade. Tune into smell and notice the different aromas present. Taste the air. Tune into gravity and feel it pulling you to the earth. Gently sway your body. Put your hands over your heart and feel your heartbeat. Return to any sensation you like. Are birds singing? Are trees rustling? Can you feel the warmth of the sunshine? When you’re ready to open your eyes, open them slowly and notice all around you.

 

3︱Walking

On a walking trail, park or open space, walk at a pace that feels comfortable to you for about 20 minutes. No matter how you walk, focus your attention on nature and your breathing. You may like to alternate between slow, brisk, and fast walking. Slow walking fosters a heightened state of awareness, calm and connection with the natural world. In large open spaces, such as a park, try slow walking in circles, expanding and contracting the size of your circles. Faster walking relieves stress and energizes the body. Try holding your arms out to your sides as you walk, like an airplane, or stretching them over your head. No matter how you walk, do pause along the way to notice the small wonders of nature.

 

4︱Make Friends With Trees

Find a tree that attracts to you and make friends with it as you like. Spend at least 10 minutes with your tree. Some possible ways to engage with trees are:

Explore the tree: Gaze at the tree for five minutes. What does it tell you about itself? Trees belong to species and have histories, families, health issues, and unique qualities. Lean against the tree, touch the tree, hug the tree. What knowledge does it share with you? 

Climb the tree: Carefully climb (shoes off) and find a place to sit or lie safely and enjoy the view.

Tell the tree a story: Share a secret, your dreams, a prayer, or send a message to a loved one.

Meditate with the tree:  Either sitting or lying down, breathe and exchange oxygen and energies with the tree.

Stretch your body with the tree: Use the tree as a support to stretch your back, arms, legs and torso.

 

5︱Nature Therapist

Nature is a wonderful therapist. Using your senses, let yourself be drawn to an element of nature, such as a tree, a rock, or light. Sit comfortably with it and ask a question, silently or aloud, that you are seeking support or guidance on. With your senses open and mind neutral, listen. An answer may come to you in the form of an intuition, a physical sensation, an animal guide or something else. It is possible that no answer will come while you wait, but it may come to you later in another way. 

 

6︱Nature Art

Create an impermanent artwork made from found elements of nature. The work of Andy Goldsworthy is an inspiration, but we need not go so far! Some ideas for your nature art: gratitude mandala, spirit altar, ikebana, labyrinth, toy house and bridge. If you’re with others, try a ‘gallery walk’ afterwards to share your creations.

 

7︱Animal Kingdom

Indigenous cultures considered animals to be our brothers and sisters and knew how to speak with them, as did saints, sages, yogis and mystics. Animals experience the world in ways that overlap our own, and each species has special powers and characteristics. We can learn to appreciate animals by bring their aspects into ourselves through observation and play. If you’re alone, sit someplace quietly and open yourself commune with the animals by maintaining a neutral, open, gentle state of awareness. Imagine the qualities you love most about your favorite animal and bring these visualizations into your own body. After some time, animals and birds will become used to your presence and may come out of hiding. 

For groups, stand in a circle and ask people to call forth their spirit animal (or a favorite animal). Then, give yourselves a task, such as building animal homes, or a game to play. After 15-20 minutes of play, reconvene in a circle to create a poem. Begin with a word or sound that suits the day, and then going around the circle each person contributes a word/sound until a freestyle poem emerges and runs its course.

 

8︱Dance

Dance in nature. Dance alone with headphones. Dance with friends. Make a drum circle. Stomp and clap. However you like. Be respectful of nature and dance with it.

 

9︱Water Healer

If water is present, find a comfortable place to sit beside the water to meditate or simply enjoy the sensory experience. Water sounds and vibrations calm our brains and nervous systems. Moving waters encourage going with the flow, letting go, movement, change, and creative energy. Still waters encourage self-reflection. If possible, feel the water with your hands and feet. Get a natural foot massage and refresh yourself.

 

10︱Dream Time

Find a comfortable spot on the ground, lie down, take off your shoes, and take in the life around you. Sky-gaze, daydream, meditate, watch insects, breathe, nap, or feel free to simply enjoy being with nature. Try positioning your body like a starfish, with arms and legs outstretched. This grounding activity will calm and refresh your body and mind.


Article contributed by Julie Hall. Julie is a forest therapy guide and founder of Shinrin-Yoku Walks.

7 Healing Forests from Japan

Travel with us into the delightful healing forests of Japan. Discover the magical moss covered forests of Yakushima island and know about the volcano museum. Breathe in the deep greens of dense forests and soak in the crystal streams, waterfalls and hot springs scattered around.

During the 1980’s Japanese researchers and scientists started discovering multiple benefits of being in forests and reconnecting with nature. With the development of medical equipment related to natural and life sciences, this field has advanced even more. They have given us scientific proof on our intuitive understanding that nature heals. Japan as a country has established many healing forests in their country over the years. Designated nature reserves where people can go to experience the healing powers of forests.

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SHINRIN YOKU

Japan is a technologically advanced world. Cities have become mazes of steel, concrete and silicon, swimming in a sea of electromagnetic waves. In this electronic age, some part of us still yearns for the freedom and comfort of nature. For many people, the answer lies in reaching out to the forests.

Shinrin-yoku is a term the Japanese use to describe this practise of immersing oneself in the forest. Literally translated it means ‘forest bathing’. Allowing nature to cleanse the mind and spirit of negative thoughts and emotions. Reawakening your senses, rejuvenating your energy and adding strength to your healing ability.

Given below is a hand picked list of some of the best healing forests of Japan.

Shiratani Unsuikyo, Yakushima Japan
One of Japan’s natural wonders, Shiratani Unsuikyo Gorge on Yakushima Island is home to a mystical, primeval forest with yakusugi cedar trees between 1,000 – 7,200 years old. Covered in 600 types of moss, the forest glows green and radiates an otherworldly beauty that is legendary in Japanese culture. Shiratani Unsuikyo is best explored on the longer trail, Taiko-Iwa, that passes through the most luscious landscapes on the island and leads to the top of the mountain with stunning panoramic views. Yakushima Island is a registered UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site for its rare and diverse ecosystem, unlike any other on earth. Indigenous deer and monkeys roam freely. There are many places along the trail to stop and enjoy the scenery. Bring your rain gear and lunch, walk carefully and enjoy! Information contributed by: Julie Hall, www.shinrin-yoku-walks.com

Yakushima | Image Source

Kitago, Miyazaki
“A town of great natural beauty, clean streams and hot springs”, Kitago Town in Nichinan City is located in the southern part of Miyazaki Prefecture. The natural hot springs of 51 degreesC welling up from 800 meters below the ground are popular with visitors from both within and outside Miyazaki who refer to it as the “The Beauty Hot Spring”. Hanatate Park is famous for its 10,000 cherry trees and in spring, visitors flock from all over to gaze at the clouds of soft pink blossoms.


Ukiha City, Fukuoka
Located in the southeastern part of Fukuoka Prefecture with the Minou Mountains ranging to the south and the Chikugo River flowing in the north, Ukiha City has a rich natural environment.

Ukiha |Image Source

Iinan, Shimane
The Town of Iinan nestles in the highlands at an elevation of 450 meters. The sources of both the Hii and Kando Rivers are to be found in this region made famous by its long history of rice and vegetable production. With easy access to such a rich natural environment, the town of Iinan’s Forest Therapy programs offer a combination of nature, history and culture.

Linan |Image Source

Ashizu, Chizu Town, Yazu-Gun
Along the forest therapy road in Chizu, in the Ashizu valley, flows one of the best streams in western Japan. It is situated in a forest of cedar and hardwoods. The valley is magnificent in all the four seasons and has something new to offer every time you visit. The valley stretches to the Chugoku Nature Trail, encircles the Mitaki Dam and continues on to the upstream river valley.

Ashizu |Image Source

Shiso, Hyogo
Surrounded by towering mountains with an elevation of over 1000 meters, such as Hyonsen, the highest peak in Hyogo Prefecture, the City is full of lush greenery as it is part of the Hyonosen-Ushiroyama-Nagisan Semi-National Park and the Onzui-Chikusa Prefectural Natural Park.

Shiso Hyogo |Image Source

Yamanouchi, Nagano
With towering mountains, primeval forests and clean sparkling lakes, it has an undulating terrain surrounded by high 2,000 meter mountain ranges rich in volcanic rocks such as green tuff, andesite, diorite and basalt, indicating the intensity of past volcanic activity. It is known as a “volcano museum”. The therapy roads often take you to vantage points where you may find a sea of clouds under your feet. The primeval forest of Shiga Kogen also has circular loops around emerald lakes reflecting the forest green.

We hope this article inspired you to go out and spend some time in nature. As part of our project we are identifying and marking healing forests around the world. Quiet spaces in nature that one can visit without feeling unsafe. You can check out the map so far and even recommend a nature trail to be added to this map.

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

May the forests be with you.

KUMANO – 熊野 from Mathieu Le Lay on Vimeo.

Finding Answers In Life

As the year turns, here’s a story from the deep Amazon forest that brings us some old wisdom to create a new vision. This post is for the seeker in all of us.

B-Leaf-3We live in an age of information, mis-information and information overload. There are times when this can lead to confusion and lack of clarity. One may often find the mind caught in a whirlpool of troubled thoughts and unable to create a vision for our lives.

Can the forests show us a way out and help us in finding answers to important questions in life?

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Lessons from the Amazon

The Achuar are a group of indigenous people of the Amazon Basin, currently numbering around 6,000. Their ancestral lands – nearly 2 million acres in all – straddle the modern borders of Ecuador and Peru, a remote area that has allowed them to preserve their way of life with little outside influence or colonization.

The wise elders and shamans of the Achuar have always relied on their ability to engage with nature to create a vision for their lives. This interaction with their environment plays a mysterious role in guiding their actions and influencing their decisions.

Here’s a short film on the uncommon wisdom of this enchanted world.

The shamans know that being in nature can give us a larger perspective of life. To solve our problems we must begin by asking the right questions rather than simply seeking answers.

Connecting with nature helps us get our priorities right. It makes us focus on things which are important and those who really matter. This results in a better way to evaluate our choices and leads to better decision making.

On a more practical note spending time in nature can help in calming us. The act of interacting with the outdoors, brings our awareness to the present moment. Our mind gets a much deserved rest so that it can apply itself with renewed energy and come up with surprisingly creative solutions.

The vision always comes from soul, and soul is an aspect of nature. If the vision is true and we embody it well, we embody our place in the more-than-human world. Doing so always serves the greater web of life. ~Bill Plotkin

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A vision from the Achuar

Here’s an interesting example of how the Achuar have developed a new vision for their forests.

Since the early 20th century, individuals and corporations from the so-called “modern” world have sought to exploit Achuar land for its oil, disregarding its irreplaceable ecological and cultural wealth.

By the early 1990s, Achuar shamans and elders were having dreams of an imminent threat to their land and traditional way of life. From contact with neighbouring tribes, the Achuar knew that oil companies were poisoning the rainforest and steadily moving closer and closer to their areas.

The Achuar have found a bold solution to this threat. They have sought alliances with the world outside their forest. Partnering with environmentally conscious organisations, they have fought a long battle to protect the forests they call home. These initiatives have been successful in creating delay and in many cases holding back the damaging actions of the oil companies.

The Achuars and their alliances are finding new answers to these difficult challenges. By choosing to guard their precious forests instead of giving in, they are inspiring us with their wisdom and courage. The future is always uncertain but if our vision is strong, our path becomes clear.

To know more about their story and become a part of it visit.
https://www.pachamama.org/about/origin

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END NOTE:
Healing forest is a journey to explore fascinating forests and discover the healing powers of nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

Loneliness and its forest cure

This month we touch upon the growing issue of loneliness. Even though the world is more connected than ever, we find a great number of people experiencing a sense of isolation and disconnect from others. Can the forests teach us how to avoid loneliness and in difficult times, overcome it?

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hern42/

To find the answer, we take a journey into Canada’s Forests. Canada is the second largest country in the world. It’s forests and other wooded lands make up 40% of its 979 million hectares. Canada’s forest cover represents 10% of the entire world’s forest cover.

In Canada lives a wise professor who has been studying trees and forests for years. Her research has given us some interesting findings. Watch this short Ted Talk by Suzanne Simard to know more.

Suzanne Simard is a professor of forest ecology and teaches at the University of British Columbia. She is best known for her work on how trees communicate with other trees.

Forests are built on relationships
~Suzanne Simard

The forest cure for loneliness

The best antidote for loneliness is meaningful relationships. Which includes and begins with examining the relationship we have with ourselves.

Most people think about creating relationships with people who are like them or with people who they like, but the forests teach us that relationships are built on giving. The action of giving opens the door for receiving.

The trees in the forest feed the fungi networks with food, while the fungi supply the trees with vital nutrients which are difficult to access. As the bond deepens, the fungi are able to spread and connect to other trees forming a large network of interconnected trees. This beautiful example from nature can teach us an important lesson. The act of giving starts the process of connecting with others and bridges the way for reaching out to people who can give back to you.

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/deniscollette/10134425183/

Sometimes, building relationships with other people is not easy and requires a lot of effort and practice. Here’s a helpful tip. Creating a connection with plants, trees and forests is simple and can be a healing exercise. They can teach us a lot about relationships and also take away our loneliness. Once we begin to explore and learn this dance of giving and receiving we come to realise that we share a relationship with everything. Not just with other people, but also with animals, trees and nature.

With enough practise, we can become like the mother trees which give far more than they receive, especially to those in need. Sharing our personal gifts to reach out and help take away the loneliness in others.

To start off on this journey, here’s a quick recap of 4 take-aways from Suzzane Simard’s talk.

  • Go connect with the forests. Build a relationship with them.
  • Learn how they work. Learn what they have to teach.
  • Protect the forests. They can’t defend themselves from humans.
  • The forests are worth saving, because you are worth saving. Use your own links to spread the word.

Forests aren’t just a bunch of trees competing with each other, they’re super cooperators. ~ Suzanne Simard

Questions for reflection

What are we receiving and what are we giving back to the relationships in our lives?
How do we create a better relationship with ourselves and others?

And while you ponder on these questions do enjoy this beautiful video from the forests of Banff National Park in Canada. In the filmmaker’s words – “It is another one of the magical Wildlands of our planet. A place where you can truly experience the strong connection between humans and nature. It’s difficult not to be fully aware of your existence when you are walking through the Rocky Mountains of Canada. Exploring the Wildland of Banff is a life changing experience.”

Film credits:
Time-lapse Photography: Enrique Pacheco (enriquepacheco.com)
Original Score: Peter Nanasi (peternanasi.com)

END NOTE: Do add your thoughts, stories and reflections in the comment box. It will help us learn from each other.
If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to help people reconnect with nature. To know more about us and join us as a fellow volunteer visit this link.

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/neilbanas/831577475/