Most individuals who work in an office or spend a majority of their time indoors will readily admit they feel better — less stressed, more energized and more in tune with themselves — when they just get outside. Healing Forest is a project that works off this universal truth; channeling the long history of mankind’s relationship with the wilderness before a wide and open expanse called home was replaced with tall skyscrapers, concrete, and urban pollution.
Healing Forest blames this switch for our rising levels of stress, depression and chronic illnesses. That’s why they provide individuals the opportunity to connect with nature through volunteer projects that help humans heal while also drawing attention to our beautiful natural resources.
Healing Forest offers many different sources to prove that their message is valid, and to show where similar projects are seeing success. (For example, the Korea Forest Service has developed therapy forests equipped with simple facilities, meditation spaces and healing forest trails, so that visitors can connect directly with the healing elements of nature.) The Healing Forest project also produces its own materials to support its message, including articles and films.
One such film breaks down their philosophy quite nicely. No matter where you are or who you are, everyone faces the emotional ups and downs of life, says Healing Forest. Failure, rejection and loss are general facts of being human, and healing from unpleasant occurrences is a process that depends on the brain.
Over the course of thousands of years, our bodies and our brains have developed along with nature. Our current mode of urban living is a relatively new concept. Because of this, a large part of our psyche still feels at home within a natural setting. Healing Forest points to scientific research showing how our brains function differently when we’re in nature.
Within the urban life most of us experience, our brains are overworked in certain aspects. The parts of our minds that deal with logic, information and decision making are constantly fighting to keep up in a world full of data overload. As our brains are continuously running on hyperdrive, something is bound to break at some point. While our bodies provide us with warning signs, most people ignore those signs until something goes drastically wrong.
Currently, more than 350 million people are suffering from depression, and stress is quickly becoming a global epidemic. Anxiety and anger issues are on the rise. Of course, we’ve found ways to cope with these issues — alcohol, drugs, prescriptions, costly therapies, etc. However, most never stop to find the root of their problems, says Healing Forest. The question many need to be asking, instead of ‘how can I quickly fix my symptoms of stress,’ is ‘what is the source of my health?’
To Healing Forest, the source of everyone’s’ health is quite simple — it’s nature. The changes that occur within the brain when we are connected with nature have been shown to fight depression and stress, boost immunity and our bodies’ natural healing abilities, accelerate recovery from surgeries and illnesses, increase the blood cells that fight cancer and tumors and reduce blood pressure. Reconnecting with nature, in many ways, resets the brain, and helps us find the calm, comfort and clarity that is needed to healthily deal with the stresses of our everyday lives.
For those looking to embrace the healing aspects of nature, Healing Forest provides their own events, as well as recommendations for experiencing nature in such a way on your own. Healing Forest walks are conducted in small groups and silence, with a focus on increasing awareness of the natural setting, and quieten the areas of our brains that we use for information processing throughout the day. It’s about being present and in the moment, rather than processing data at an alarming rate. Walks are interspersed with meditation sessions.
When planning your own healing walking sessions, it’s recommended you give yourself about two hours within a natural setting, whether it be a large urban park or a remote hiking trail. Break the experience into 10-minute intervals, with 10 minutes being used for walking, and then the next 10 being used for sensory meditations.
Sensory meditations are exactly what they sound like — time taken to be still, present and focused on one sense at a time, with one 10-minute session set aside for each of the five senses. Breathe in the entire scent of the forest and pick out its delicate parts and pieces. Listen to the subtle sounds. Bring along an organic or all-natural snack and focus on its origins within nature. See things as if you were looking at them for the very first time. Touch the earth, rocks, plants and trees. When you feel you’ve mastered the complexity of these healing walks by yourself, invite others to accompany you. Through silent reflection and mutual healing, you can help build better relationships.
To get involved with the Healing Forest project, go to their main page to subscribe to their blog, read stories of how the project is changing lives and volunteer.