• Joanna Dreher

Forest Bathing in Lockdown

In these unprecedented times of lockdown, many of us will have uncomfortable feelings and emotions arise. In our normal life, we can distract ourselves from the issues we find uncomfortable - we can stay busy at work, we can meet friends and go places, take part in activities - but when we are stuck at home, with not too much to distract us, all of the issues that we don’t want to face, can come rising to the surface - yes lockdown is bringing all out sh*t up! I just wanted to normalise that if you are experiencing difficult times.

In some ways lockdown is a lot like meditation - if we sit and quiet the mind, the stuff lurking in our subconscious has space to bubble up - the benefit of meditation is that we get to feel what we are really experiencing without the constant chatter of our often negative, directive and judgmental mind. This allows us to work through true feelings and emotions and have a better connection to ourselves. Lockdown is stripping us back to the basics of life.

I am a great believer in looking around and using what we have to help us find some peace and connection. My way of getting peace is by being in nature - I am lucky enough to be able to walk into a forest where I live, but a park, a garden - any green space will do. The surname Blackwood originates from people that lived in the dark of the wood and I have always felt a connection with woods and forests - I love looking for obscure paths through the forest, taking me away from the main paths and into my own space, there is so much energy and life - in forests I just feel connected!

Research has shown that my tree hugging side has a valid point to make - being in nature is very good for us - it reduces cortisol levels that cause stress, reduce anxiety, can lower blood pressure, can improve problem solving and help us recover more quickly from illness. The Japanese, after doing their own research in the 1980’s - endorse forest bathing - or shinrin yoku in Japanese - as part of their preventative health care programme where people are asked to spend time in a forest for mental, spiritual and physical health benefits - yes they actually prescribe it! They found through their extensive research that trees emit phytoncides, which when inhaled, enhance the activity of natural killer cells in our bodies which fight disease - I actually heard the naturalist Chris Packham state this on live TV yesterday too.

When you go to your green space, try not to take the energy sapping mobile phone with you - or leave it in your pocket and don’t take it out - research has also shown that a break from technology whilst being in nature is the best way to enhance the benefit and also boost problem solving. What’s useful is using your senses - ask yourself what you can see, feel, hear and smell, this allows for a truly mindful experience of being in the moment. Place your hands on trees and tune into their energy, those trees may have been there centuries, imagine if they could talk what their stories would be. You may even be lucky enough to see some wildflowers such as bluebells at this time of year.

There are lots of comments about how the parks are busy because of lockdown, but maybe people are realising that being in nature is beneficial for them, maybe people are remembering what it was like to go to the park with their families, maybe this remembering will mean that these spaces are cherished and like the Japanese, understand that they are imperative to our health and future. I hope so.

Happy forest bathing - stay safe.

Joanna Dreher

Director, Therapist and Coach

Blackwood Consultants Ltd

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