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  • Writer's pictureForest Healing Foundation

Forests and human wellbeing

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

When I am spending time in the Kandyan Forests, I can observe how my body and mindset are changing, being surrounded by wilderness.



As I am walking along a footpath, I feel the fresh breeze on my skin, gently playing with my hair. As I am inhaling deeply and broadening up my chest, I feel the oxygen running through my body. I hear birds shirping lively, leaves rustling and branches cracking in the wind. I watch trees gently swaying in the wind, leaving just enough space for the sun to send warm rays of sunshine through the lush green of the treetops. I am able to witness the abundance of wildlife in this place. While I am letting my eyes wander, I spot different species of colourful birds, giant squirrels quickly climbing up to the treetops and monkeys cheerfully jumping from tree to tree. In the distance, I see the silhouette of a deer. It is looking at me shortly before it continues its way through the thicket. As I continue following the path, I can observe my senses being sharpened. I can smell the unique sense of spice trees, fruit trees and many different natural plants. Many of them are used for Ayurvedic medicine. There is such a biodiversiy that I am almost unable to capture all of it with my senses. My mind is curios and wants to excplore everything. I feel a connection to my surroundings but at the same time, I notice how my mind slowly gets more calm. Nothing matters in this moment, there is no judgement, no pressure and no stress. I am able to find my own pace because the forest does not have any timeline. I do not need to perform or deliver, I do not need to even do anything. Just being there, right here in this place and being aware of myself and my surroundings, that is all I have to do. I feel as if my mind and body are given a break, a green shelter as an escape from the hectic pace in the city. There I have to be someone, I have to meet expectations. I have to proof myself and I have to cope with daily stress. But here in the forest, I am enough as I am simply there. As I make my way back to the city, I feel recharged, I feel at ease and I feel inspired. This is what I need to face the city life. I have a place that I call my home, I have a place that I call my work. But I also have this third place - the forest, which is neither home or work but it is just as important.


Over the past years, discussions and awareness about the relation between green spaces and human wellbeing have been increased in both informal conversations between persons and in academic research. As part of holistic health approaches, environmental factors were found to impact human health on physical and mental levels. Driven by the alarming numbers of anxiety, stress and depression, especially in urban environments and Western developed countries, the awareness of the importance of personal wellbeing is increasing. We all seek wellbeing and the way to achieve it might be easier as we think it is.


As humans have evolved in nature, it is believed to be our natural instinct to feel comforted by nature. However, especially in urban environments, we seem to have lost our connection with nature. As cities are becoming more and more densed and industrialized, larger green spaces are vanishing and access to them is not always given. But it is important to look at the role and meaning of green spaces, such as forests, for sustaining human wellbeing.

 



It was found that regular visits to forests positively impact our human wellbeing in various ways.While the city life is characterized by acceleration, fumes, engine noises and technology, the forest is a strong contrast. It is our human nature to seek deceleration, stress relief and an escape from daily life. All this can be found in the forest. It functions as a 'green lung' that provides a shelter or retreat from the noise and hectic pace in the city. The beautiful surroundings, the quietness, the fresh air and the soothing sounds provide pleasant sensory experiences.

In turn, this was found to result in stress reduce, a more peaceful mind and less negative thoughts. Spending time in the forest encourages a positive mindset as well as higher levels of vitality. It further promotes physical activities, such as hiking, which benefit the human body and foster higher levels of fitness.But not only that. Being in the forest further allows us to seek shelter from daily life and to be alone with ourselves, if wanted. It encourages mindfulness - a higher state of awareness about ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts, our sensory experiences. Being more aware encourages a better connection of body, mind and soul. Something that is very prominent in holistic health approaches nowadays. Mindfulness even leads to inspiration. We are likely to develop better problem solving skills and moments of inspiration while spending time in the forest. We recharge our 'batteries' and restore our minds.




Summarizing the above, spending time in forests on a regular basis has various positive impacts on our wellbeing. It is our intrinsic human need to spend time in nature and it supports us to better cope with daily life in the cities. It is therefore essential that we understand the important role of green spaces in our lives. We seem to be more and more alienated by nature, driven by technology, industrialization and rising populations. But it is on us to make an effort to sustain our connection with nature to promote our own wellbeing. Nature benefits us in various ways and we must protect what is so precious to us. By focusing on preservation and conservation of forests, we do not only protect ecosystems and biodiversity but we also protect ourselves.


If you would like to support the Forest Healing Foundation or find out how you can help to protect the biodiversity in the Kandyan Forest, then please contact us at info@polwaththa-ecolodges.com. We appreciate any help that we can get!


Thank you very much for reading!


Greetings from the jungle,

 

Anna








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