Ever fancied 'forest bathing'? How being close to nature can ease stress
- Credit: Aaron McMillan
Fakenham Times columnist Angela Glynn, from Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, feels everyone should get closer to nature - and that there's more to it than you might first think.
Millions of words have been written about stress and mental health during the last year. Being cooped up at home, trying to work, school the children, keep fit, keep the weight off and stay sane has tested us as never before.
Working at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve helps me to understand how important it is for people to be close to nature.
The reserve was closed for much of last year, of course. There was a short time in the summer when visitors were allowed back, but I sensed that many people wanted to visit but were unsure of the wisdom of doing so.
During lockdown we introduced Covid safe operations – temperature screening on arrival, mask wearing in the visitor centre and hides, a one-way system around the boardwalk and hand sanitiser just about everywhere!
Well, it is good to know that now we can relax some of those measures because getting into the glorious open space at Sculthorpe is not only good for the body but good for the soul too.
Just walking along surrounded by greenery and listening to birdsong is calming and restorative.
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You may think that is all there is to it – nice view, a bit of birdsong, a river burbling past… but you would be wrong to think it is that simple.
The connection between humans and nature is far more profound. For example, when we see different colours, our brains must process them to decide on the colour…except for green. Any shade of green is recognised and accepted immediately.
The connection goes further, though.
Digging in the earth, or simply smelling fresh earth influences our wellbeing due to the presence of a friendly bacteria that boosts our brains to create a feeling of wellbeing.
That’s right, just smelling fresh earth makes you feel better and increases your resistance to stress.
In fact, the Japanese have embraced shinrin yoku or ‘forest bathing’ as a way of staying well.
It combines immersion in nature and mindfulness and there is no doubt that staying well is far better than having to ‘get better.’
So, the lesson is to get out and about in nature to feel better.
Perhaps we can all ‘prescribe’ ourselves a regular walk in the country, or at Sculthorpe to help us regain our mental wellbeing as we emerge from the lockdowns of the past 17 months
If you fancy a walk at the reserve, you’ll be made most welcome!
Staying with this theme, I came across an article in one of the daily papers recently about the connection between sport and children’s emotions.
The research suggests that children who play sports regularly are better able to control their emotions than their physically inactive peers.
This was particularly evident for children from poorer backgrounds.
Team sports were shown to be especially beneficial as they teach team building and discipline.
Playing sport was also shown to help academic success as well as helping children to control their emotions.
Even if it’s a run round the park, or along the beach, physical activity will help young people to thrive.
The research was carried out by scientists at Cambridge University who assessed over 4,000 children at ages 7, 11 and 14.
We are so lucky here in Fakenham to have great sports clubs for football, cricket, rugby and tennis.
We have lovely river walks and nature reserves on both sides of the town.
There is no excuse to linger indoors now that we are all set free from our restricted lives and now you know that there is science behind the ‘feelgood factor.’