On Sunday we went for a family walk. It was a very foggy day (living on a hill 545 feet/166 metres above sea level this isn’t unusual). 1st November was also All Saints’ Day in the Christian Calendar, Samhain in the Pagan year and the Mexican Day of the Dead. In short, it was the day when many cultures believe the boundary between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, and the spirits can pass over into our world.
There was certainly an eery feeling as we crossed the village churchyard, shrouded in fog:
We made our way past the field where the village bonfire is being built, ready to be lit on Thursday. At the top of the pile you can just make out the ghostly model spitfire:
Our Millennium wood was – unsuprisingly – created in 2000. When we moved to our village in 2002 I remember it just being a collection of saplings. Now, 13 years later it has come into its own as a small woodland, perfect for exploring, playing in and building dens.
After the walk I felt really invigorated. I also enjoyed playing with the girls, photographing the woodland and just spending time being still and listening. Later that day I happened, by chance, to come across the Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku, or ‘Forest Bathing’.
This is the theory that by spending time amid the trees your body and mind benefits. Studies have shown that being in the natural environment can:
- reduce stress levels
- reduce blood pressure
- boost your immune system
- increase energy levels
- aid your body in recovering from illness or surgery
- improve your mood
It is now common practice in Japan for people to spend time in the woods, participating in Shinrin-Yoku. Being under forest canopy, spending time just listening, breathing and noticing (rather than strenuous exercise) for about 4 hours is the recommended practice.
A few weeks ago we travelled to Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, home to 15,000 specimens of trees, plants and bushes. We like to visit at least once a year but the Autumn is the most spectacular time to visit. Having learned about Shinrin-Yoku made me think about our walk there and how much better we all felt as a family after the visit.
While our village woodland is on a small scale, compared to arboretums like Westonbirt, I would like to explore Shinrin-Yoku further on a local scale. As I recently wrote here I do not have regular access to a car, but being in the countryside there are trees all around. I think I will try ‘Forest Bathing’ at home.