This past Saturday, we were blessed with a beautiful Spring day in Virginia. We rounded up the rugrats and headed to our favorite local park – Pocahontas State Park! It would be our one year old’s first time in the ol backpack and he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. There is something certainly magical and calming about the beauty of the forest. Have you ever noticed that after spending time in the forest, you just generally feel better? Well there’s a good amount of published medical literature regarding the biophysiological changes that happen after spending time in the forest. This area of research has been picking up steam in the past several decades in several countries, linking it to positive effects on your immune system, heart rate, blood pressure, and mood. The Japanese have actually come up with a term called: Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing). Studies demonstrate that spending time in the forest (not necessarily exercising), is linked to improve natural immunity cell function, blood pressure, sleep, anti-anxiety and more benefits that we have still not come to understand as of yet.
In many countries where preventative and primary care is strongly developed, many physicians actually prescribe their patients “time in the forest”. The positive effects of shinrin-yoku “forest bathing” seemed to last for several weeks after the time in the forest. There is certainly something primordial about reconnecting with the earth by spending time in the forest. Have you ever stared at a tree, it’s trunk and it’s branches and wondered how this shape came to be? This branching shape is ubiquitous to everything that is life. In the human body for instance, the blood vessels that course through our lungs (pulmonary artery tree) and through our eyes (the retinal vasculature) share the same branching shapes. The rivers that flow through our land are another example. This arterial network throughout the earth and life is truly amazing.
For our children, they are truly in their element in the woods. Chasing the sounds of the bull frogs, the woodpeckers, the wind through the trees, watching them marvel at everything is a joy. Pocahontas also has a pretty amazing nature center, where children can learn about rocks, live animals (snakes and snapping turtles), furs, campsites, camp gear, and loads more. We also visited the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) museum for the first time. They all had a blast. I’m hoping the effects of shinrin-yoku linger till our next trip back outdoors. I wish everyone good health and be safe when exploring.
2 thoughts on “Spring hike in Pocahontas – Shinrin-Yoku”
Great stuff! The outdoors makes for a wonderful classroom – my favourite time teaching is outside. I’d attest to the positives of forest time and couldn’t imagine getting by without…
Spent many happy days and nights in CCC cabins – real treasures.
Thanks for the virtual shinrin-yoku. I feel refreshed.