Wildwood Naturopathic nutrition in a woodland setting

Can you remember how you felt the last time you went for a walk in the woods? When I walk in the woods, it helps me to think more clearly. I feel calmer and more energised. The stresses of my day seem less important when I stand amongst trees that have been quietly observing for the last 400 years.

 

We all know that spending time outdoors makes us feel better; we evolved to live alongside nature. But we are forgetting about it, losing our connection to the earth and its natural healing power.

Technostress - the problem with too much screen time

 

In the UK, the average person spends 90% of their day indoors. We are spending 8 hours and 40 minutes of that time with our heads down, looking at screens. On average, that’s longer than we’re spending asleep!

‘Technostress’ describes the anxiety associated with screen time. Constant sharing of social media updates, checking likes, posting photos to promote happiness and success… this is causing us to experience physical symptoms from eye and neck strain through to mental fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Mental illness is on the increase. The World Health Organisation describes stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century. In the UK, a report by the Department of Health states that:

“…the financial costs of the adverse effects of mental illness on people’s quality of life are estimated at £41.8 billion per year in England” (National Mental Health Development Unit, gateway ref: 14559)

It’s a daunting problem. But the good news is this: if you unplug from technology and plug into nature, it can have an enormously positive effect on your health and wellbeing.

It’s a daunting problem. But the good news is this: if you unplug from technology and plug into nature, it can have an enormously positive effect on your health and wellbeing.

Forest bathing: the simple practice of spending time in the forest for better health, happiness and a sense of calm… a way to reconnect with nature’. Dr Li

 

In his book ‘The Art and Science of Forest Bathing’, Dr Qing Li has examined the data on spending time in woodland. He has found a wealth of evidence to show that a two hour ‘forest bathe’ can:

Reduce blood pressure                         Lower stress

Improve sleep                                        Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health

Lower blood sugar levels                     Improve concentration

Ease depression                                    Enhance mood

Increase energy                                    Aid weight loss

Improve memory recall                       Boost the immune system

 

 

Boosting your immune system

That last point about the immune system is where Dr Li’s work gets really interesting. Within your immune system, you have a type of white blood cell called a Natural Killer Cell (NKC). These NKCs will attack and kill unwanted cells in your body, for example cells that have been infected with a virus. They also play a role in early cancer detection.

Dr Li found that spending just two hours in woodland increased NKC activity by 53%. What’s more, this effect lasted up to thirty days.

But why should this be? What it is about being near trees that makes them so good for us?

 

 

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It's not just healthy foods that can boost your immune system

Trees release natural oils called phytoncides that form part of their defence system. Dr Li’s research showed that when we inhale phytoncides, our NKC activity increases significantly.

 

More and more, research is showing that spending time in nature is beneficial to our health. It can improve memory, mood and creativity. It promotes psychological and emotional wellbeing. People who live near trees have lower stress levels and a lower mortality rate than city dwellers. We instinctively know that being in nature is good for us and now the science is proving it.

Try this Forst Bathing Exercise

Next time you walk in the woods, take your time. Leave your phone and other distractions behind.

  • Find a place to sit down (or even better, lie right down on the ground).

  • Expand your experience by listening to the birds rustling in the leaves…

  • Look at how the light affects the many different shades of green…

  • Breathe deeply to inhale the natural oils released by the trees…

  • Reach out and run your fingers through the grass, or over the bark of a tree.

  • Notice the patterns that are everywhere in nature.

  • Stay in the present moment and absorb the beauty of what is around you.

Julie Hypher, Nutritionist Wildwood Nutrition | Hamble | Southampton

About the Author

Julie Hypher is a BANT registered Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist and founder of Wildwood Nutrition, a dedicated nutritional therapy clinic in Hamble, Hampshire. She runs private Clinics every Tuesday and Thursday.

Julie Hypher

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