Your kids are stressed. They also might be sick, or carrying too many pounds, or feeling lonely and depressed. Fortunately for many if not most of us, there is an antidote – it’s free, it’s easily available, and it’s as effective as many of the therapies foisted on our kids (but without the side effects).
Yep, we’re suggesting you get your kids some forest therapy. A lot of it, in fact.
The Western worlds version of Japan’s practice of ‘forest bathing,’ forest therapy may sound woo-woo but we’re here to tell you – with the aid of some research – that it really works. And in an era when so many epidemics are plaguing out children, it’s never been so critical.
What the Studies Say
So how, exactly, is a walk in the woods therapeutic?
For starters, the mere act of looking at trees is good for the body. One study showed that hospital patients who were able to look out the window at trees versus, say, brick walls, healed faster and needed fewer pain meds. Another study showed regular time in the woods reduces cortisol, a stress hormone. And still another study showed forest hikes are good for the heart.
How do trees work their magic? Turns out our woody friends release phytoncides, the scientific term for essential oils that contain antimicrobial properties and the healing that comes with them.
These oils – which also contain 3-carene – help to lower blood pressure, alleviate depression and anxiety, and lessen inflammation.
Kids with ADHD and aggression disorders also can benefit from regular hikes in the woods. And those who struggle with feelings of loneliness say that walks in the woods leave them feeling calmer, happier, and more at peace.
Good for What Ails You
And we’re not just talking about small numbers of tree huggers either. In a massive UK study, more than 20,000 members of the public reported feeling happier and healthier by spending at least 2 hours per week in nature.
Fortunately, municipal and educational planners are paying attention and working to create more opportunities for kids to reengage with Mother Nature.
The Trust for Public Lands has launched a Ten Minute Walk campaign that encourages municipal leaders to ensure their citizens have access to green spaces.
Meanwhile, Park RX America is working with medical establishments to prescribe regular doses of nature as part of any healthcare program.
The list of benefits (and their associated studies is seemingly endless).
But rather than stare at yet another screen to learn more, grab your kids and head out to the nearest forest, park, meadow – anywhere that you can get some therapy from the natural world around you. Your body, your brain, and your kids, will thank you for it.