A Dose of Vitamin G
It calms the mind, lifts the mood and acts as an instant digital detox. Getting a regular dose of green space, aka Vitamin G, is often overlooked as a way of growing wellbeing. Spending time in nature feels good and there’s a body of evidence to show that it does us good too. Getting out into the wilderness is a natural healer of mental health. It used to be known as the ‘camp cure’ or ‘wilderness therapy’.
Stressed urbanites would take time out to go camping as a remedy for the wear and tear on their nervous system. Now that we appear to be more in touch with our small screens than the great outdoors, doctors are prescribing ‘green therapy’ to help people press the mental reset button and recover their wellbeing. It is nature’s energy drink for the wired and tired. Green exercise and forest bathing are part of the modern version of the ‘camp cure’.
Benefits of Green Therapy
- Lowers stress levels
- Counteracts mental fatigue
- Helps relaxation
- Improves focus and cognitive functioning
- Reduces anger
- Grows confidence and self-esteem
- Improves physical health
- Boosts mental wellbeing
Top up your Vitamin G Exercise is one of the most effective natural antidepressants, alleviating mild-to-moderate depression and lowering anxiety levels to produce a more positive outlook on life. Taking it into nature adds extra benefits. Green exercise is doing physical activities like walking, running or horse-riding in a natural environment. Health professionals suggest setting your own pace and that if you ‘start low and go slow’ you’re more likely to enjoy it and do it again. It only takes around five minutes of getting physical in a green space for it to start generating positive emotions. Green exercise in a ‘blue environment’ such as a lake, river or the sea produces the greatest improvement in mood.
Forest Bathing: A walk in the woods is not only enjoyable but it can also boost your wellbeing. The fresh air, the smell of damp earth and trees, the many shades of green and brown from foliage to moss to bark and the satisfying crunch of twigs and leaves underfoot. “Shinrin Yoku” is the Japanese therapy of bathing or basking in the forest, fully immersing yourself in the forest through the senses. Forest bathing activates the body’s brake – the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering stress hormones, replenishing our energy stores and building vitality. Even a 20-minute dose of shinrin-yoku is enough to alter cerebral brain flow to induce a state of relaxation.
Forest bathing is first and foremost about ‘being’ with nature rather than ‘doing’ anything so let go of any need to achieve anything. It is simply slowing down into a meditative state and experiencing the forest through the senses.
- Take your time, ideally a whole morning or afternoon so you can really unwind. However even a short burst of forest bathing can have a positive effect.
- Stand in one spot and immerse yourself in the environment. Open yourself up to the forest through the senses.
- Look around. What can you see? Trees, vegetation, earth, sky, animals.
- Notice your feet planted on the ground, pick up twigs, leaves or stones and feel their texture.
- Close your eyes and notice what you can hear. Tune into the birdsong, wind in the trees, the soothing sound of running water or the rustling of leaves.
- Breathe in slowly and notice the quality of the air. How does it feel on the skin? The cool breeze, the warmth of sun.
- Then notice the aromas around you – pine, birch, the sweet scent of blossom or pungent wild garlic.