I feel my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery- air, mountains, trees and people. I thought... This is what it is to be happy - Sylvia Plath
Healing Hands of Nature
Finland: Power Trails
One of the pioneers in wellbeing themed hiking trail, Finland introduced Power Trails to its people in 2010. Since then, there are many specially designed forest walks to reward your soul.
Be Mindful + Reflection
These power trails incorporate practices of mindfulness and reflection as one takes a stroll among the woods. One of the widely recognize and most notable power trails is the Ikaalinen Spa, one of Finland’s largest.
As hikers meander through the scenic forest, they will be prompted by psychological signposts placed at strategic places.
“You may squat down and feel a plant.”
These psychological signposts facilitate full immersion in nature:
- Restoring one’s attention
- Feel recharge after the walk
This helps to engage people in gentle activities to get them closer to nature, which helps to restore their tired souls from the demanding city lives and reconnect with themselves. ‘
This experience gives people:
- A feeling of being away and a getaway
- Improved moods
- Feel energized
The locals who regularly spend their leisure time in nature with recreational activities enjoy a greater sense of happiness. These perks do not end when the power trail ends, it was found that hikers still enjoy the mental benefits up to 21 days after the restorative exercise!
Shinrin-yoku, coined in 1982 when translated means forest bathing.
It is the idea of submerged in the forest atmosphere to bring the betterment of health and well-being. The human-nature connection can be formed by practicing controlled breathing in nature, aromatherapy, and tea ceremony made from foraged ingredients.
“Today, there are 62 forest bathing sites in Japan”
Each qualified site is wheelchair accessible and accompanied by a qualified forest therapy guide. A forest bathing session takes several hours within a small area of approximately few hundred meters.
Besides the visual fascination from the breathtaking forest, the essential element of Shinrin-yoku is its influence on our olfactory system. Breathing of the air in forest brings wellness to our soul physically and psychologically. As seen from one of the participants was able to describe his experience vividly:
“Light filtered gently through the Japanese horse chestnuts, and the earth smelled like, well, earth. An elderly couple ambled by, assisted by walking sticks and a bear bell. I was briefly mesmerized by a yellow butterfly”
While hiking or mountain climbing focus on the physical effects to the body, Shinrin-yoku emphasizes on:
The reflective process of the mind and giving our mind a break.
During the walk, forest guides create a sensational experience through instruction- known as invitations. People are invited to slow down their footstep and enjoy quiet contemplation around trees with all their senses.
South Korea: Healing Forest
Jangseong Healing Forest, a multitalented host that welcome a multitude of visitors, ranging from patients battling cancer to kids with allergies and even pregnant ladies geared to enjoy some healing benefits from the forest.
Depending on their needs, visitors are occupied with a wide range of activities, such as
- Guided meditation,
- Woodcrafts and even
- Tea ceremonies.
The core of Jangseon is a walk in the Hinoki forest.The walks are led by certified Forest Healing Instructors or Health Rangers. It is no easy feat undertaking this role as it requires one to attend graduate school with rigorous training.
One of the health rangers, warmly known as Park who started his life in nature when he was diagnosed with Leukemia and decided to retreat in the woods for peace.
His time in the forest helped in his recovery so much that he decided to spend his entire life among trees ever since.
Its benefits and popularity are so remarkable that the South Korean government recognizes it as an official therapy. A three-day government program was sponsored for firefighters diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to complement with their therapy. One of the participants shared their experience:
One of the participants shared their experience:
A “health ranger” offers me elm bark tea, then takes me on a hike along a small creek, through shimmering red maples, oaks, and pine-nut trees. It’s autumn, and the changing foliage and crisp air have lured scores of urban refugees to the woods. Soon we come upon a cluster of wooden platforms arranged in a clearing.
Besides mindfulness walk in the forest, participants will get to experience a range of activities that feed and recharge their inner soul. Participants also interact with one another through
Interact with one another through partner yoga or massaging each other’s forearms with lavender oil.
There are also times when everyone sits among green space as they make delicate collages with dried flowers. These activities allow city dwellers to slow down and notice the beauty that has been around them.