As you step into the Mount Douglas forest, breathe deeply, touch the soft moss and listen to the bird calls above, embrace the rejuvenating calm.
Feel your breathing slow, your anxiety ease and welcome a sense of wonder at this magical world on our doorstep.
The Japanese concept of shinrinyoku, or forest bathing, has over the last few decades become part of the preventive style of healthcare that country offers its citizens, says Michael McLellan, Assistant Supervisor of Urban Forestry with Saanich Parks.
“Japanese studies have shown forest bathing improves sleep quality, mood, the ability to focus and reduces stress levels,” Mike says, pointing to the reduction of physiological problems of stress, such as high blood pressure, muscle tension and lowered immune response.
The benefits of connecting with nature certainly became apparent over the last year, when more people than ever ventured out into their local parks. But even without the stress and isolation of a pandemic, accessing nature provides a way to slow down, step away from technology and exercise some self-care.
”Thankfully we’re blessed to live in this amazing corner of the planet where one can easily get themselves back to nature and into a lush forest to recharge and to relax,” Mike says.
In fact, Saanich has more than 170 parks, including many that are forested, such as Mount Douglas, Cuthbert Holmes, Logan, Doumac and Konukson parks; many more beautiful forests are also easily found throughout the region.
Disconnect to reconnect
Reconnecting with yourself and nature begins with disconnecting … to technology.
Leave the phone and iPod at home, or if you need to bring a phone for safety, turn it off and tuck it away.
“You can’t get away to recharge and relax if you haven’t actually gotten away,” Mike notes. “The key to unlocking the power of the forest is to attune to our senses and allow nature to enter your mind through the perception of your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands and feet.”
Stilling the mind from its regular chatter and simply seeing and experiencing what’s right before us can deepen our Natural Intelligence, and our respect for the forest, and its flora and fauna.
“Spending time within a forest setting leads to respect for the life of plants, which subsequently leads to respect for the life of the animals, that ultimately leads to an increased respect for the life in every human being,” Mike says.
“And while you’re at it, take your shoes off. If you have mobility issues, then sit. By making direct contact with the earth you become grounded. Literally grounded.”
To start exploring Saanich parks, click here to find a park you might not have visited for a while. You can also learn more about Natural Intelligence and ways to help you reconnect with nature. For those who would like to take their connection further, volunteer opportunities to support local ecosystems are also available.