Forest Week celebrated last month and World Health Day, which will be celebrated with the theme of ‘Our Planet is Our Health’ this year, are important days that raise awareness that there is an unbreakable bond between us and nature.
The theme of World Health Day 2022 focuses on keeping people and the planet healthy, while promoting the movement to create a well-being-oriented society. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 13 billion deaths occur each year from preventable environmental causes. This consists of the climate crisis, the greatest health threat facing humanity.
As humans, we are actually connected to nature, we are creatures of nature. We live in an amazing ecosystem where our every action, from the smallest microorganism to the largest, is tightly interconnected. We should put aside our marginalising attitude towards nature, plants and animals, and see ourselves as nature and live accordingly. Only in this way can we offer a balanced life for ourselves and our planet.
“Shinrin-Yoku” offers a unique opportunity for a green and healthy recovery. We can make the state of being one with nature as a part of our daily life and learn a lot from it.
Spreading rapidly from Japan across the planet, “Shinrin-Yoku” is among the most popular wellness trends of recent times. Although new to the world, Shinrin-Yoku, which has existed in Japan since the 1980s, helps to create a great awareness in terms of the environment as well as having many positive effects on human health.
The basic principle of Shinrin-Yoku practice is explained as “experiencing well-being by integrating with nature”.
Shinrin-Yoku: What is forest bathing?
Shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bath”, corresponds to the act of being in nature, connecting to the forest with our senses, with the awareness of the moment without being tied to a purpose in order to obtain therapeutic benefits.
Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia, the authors of the book Ikigai, which opens the curtains of the happy and long life of the Japanese, share this practice in detail with readers in their latest book Forest Bathing: The Rejuvenating Practice of Shinrin Yoku.
The practice of shinrin-yoku does not cover every activity done in the forest. This is not exercise, or jogging, or hiking. It is simply being in nature and exploring, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. It means being able to realize that you are a part of it. It is necessary to be aware of the state of being in the forest, to enjoy it, to appreciate it, to slow down and to re-establish the lost bond between us and nature.
The actual practice of Shinrin-yoku is very simple: take a few hours out of your busy life, head to a densely forested area, and let the trees do the rest.
5 great places to try Shinrin-Yoku in North Cyprus
With its soaring mountain peaks, abundance of untouched forests and an average of 345 days of sunshine a year, Northern Cyprus is a true Mediterranean paradise with routes that can help you escape the hustle and bustle and find a moment of peace to practice Shinrin-yoku.
Beşparmak Mountains: A popular hiking spot for tourists, also known as the Girne Mountains, is only half an hour away from the city centre. The mountain, which has a variety of flora covered with dense forests, offers the opportunity to be one with nature with its many tracks.
Alevkayası: You can enjoy the fresh air in nature and the botanical garden where you can see the unique flowers of Cyprus in the forest area.
Where history and nature meet
St. Hilarion Castle: Located on the northern slopes of Beşparmak Mountains, St. Hilarion Castle will allow you to experience the Mediterranean and Northern Cyprus view in a panoramic way. while it will help you disconnect from the outside world and harmonise with nature with its clean and fascinating air.
Buffavento Castle: The castle is located on the windiest hill of the Cyprus peninsula. Its magnificent view and magnificent Byzantine architecture integrated with nature will make you forget the time and experience the peace of just being in nature.
Kantara Castle: Nature walks around Kantara Castle–one of the three castles in the Beşparmak Mountains–will relieve all your tension and refresh your energy with its fascinating nature.
The Benefits of ‘Forest Bathing’
We all know how good being in forests can make us feel. We have known it for millennia.
The sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air in the forests – these things give us a sense of comfort.
The feeling of comfort provided by being in nature has a great effect on the regulation of hormones that cause stress, depression, anxiety and chronic fatigue, which are the bleeding wounds of our age.
Research conducted across 24 different forests in Japan shows that spending time in forest environments can reduce concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, increase parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve energy.
The founder of Morita therapy Doctor Shōma Morita sent his patients to the forest during his treatments in the first half of the 1900s, making them do activities such as hiking, cutting wood, and resting among the trees. The methods he used yielded results far superior to the medicated treatment.
Forest therapy approaches such as Shinrin-yoku, which help open the emotions, strengthen the intuition, and experience the forest like never before, are known to have roots in many cultures throughout history.
In the 1890s, renowned naturalist, author, and environmental philosopher John Muir, one of the leading advocates of wilderness conservation in America, says: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.’’
A forest bath (shinrin-yoku) is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.
So is nature our best medicine? And if it is, then how can we get back to nature and incorporate its essence into our busy urban lives? An old Chinese proverb says: “Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a songbird will come.”
-Forest Bathing: The Rejuvenating Practice of Shinrin Yoku
Shinrin-Yoku: How to do it
Forest bathing is a practice of connecting to nature. It is done by putting all electronics and distractions aside, going out into nature and consciously activating the five senses.
First you slow down and forget about time, you focus on the present. Take a walk or sit mindfully in a place undisturbed by tooting horns or busy crowds. While doing this, you focus on the sounds, smells and what you see in nature. You can also touch flowers, trees, and grass. You become aware of your inner feelings and stay in nature for a few hours.
When it comes to finding calm and relaxation through Forest bathing, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – it differs from person to person. Everyone can find a different path to strengthen their bond with nature. You can sit among the trees mindfully or do activities such as meditation, yoga, picnic, painting. As long as you always remember that you are a part of nature, there is a tight bond between you and the forest.
Wish you a wonderful week to meet with the forests mindfully!