In Persia, nature had a great importance. Gardens were built for relaxation: “It went back at least to Cyrus the Great, who some 2,500 years ago built gardens for relaxation in the busy capital of Persia”.
Nature played an important part in the lives of the Ancient Egyptians. From animals and plants, to landscapes and starts, the Ancient Egyptians were honouring nature, its beauty, and healing powers.
Gods depicted as animals
In Egypt, animals played a significant role. This can be seen in Gods being depicted as animals. For instance, Hathor was usually depicted as a cow goddess. She “is an Ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood”. It is possible that the Ancient Egyptians associated the same qualities of joy, feminine love and motherhood with cows, and that gave rise to them depicting Hathor as a cow goddess.
Horus, “most notably being a god of the sky, war and hunting”, was usually depicted as a falcon, a strong bird of prey.
These examples show that the Ancient Egyptians tended to give much significance, meaning and importance to animals and their role in nature as a whole.
Nature and people as one
Ancient Egyptians were thought to believe all humans and other sentient and non-sentient beings to be composed of gods, while all gods being the parts or fragments of Atum, whose name “has been interpreted as being the ‘complete one’”. Hence, the idea was that “Spirit infuses all things, and all things secretly long to return to the perfect spirit-body of Atum”, outlining the importance of the unity between people and other beings in nature.
The Egyptians also felt enormous respect and honour towards animals – they didn’t only see them as an importance resource to sustain life. “When sacred animals died, they were mourned; great care was taken in disposing of their remains. Dead cows were reverently placed in sacred water of the Nile. Bulls were buried outside towns with horns poking out of ground as markers. At Thebes tame alligators were adorned with jewels and bracelets, fed the finest foods. After their death they were embalmed, then kept in sacred subterranean labyrinths. The mysterious powers of animals were awesome, holy, and strange”.
According to the Buddhist tradition, everything in nature is interconnected and collectively forms a part of the one whole: “ultimately according to Buddhist teachings the innermost subtle consciousness is the sole sort of creator, itself consisting of five elements, very subtle forms of elements. These subtle elements serve as conditions for producing the internal elements, which form sentient beings, and that in turn causes the existence or evolution of the external elements. So there is a very close interdependence or Interrelationship between the environment and the inhabitants”. It is also possible to assume that, being a part of the whole one, nature and humans can derive lots of benefits from the inter-communication, possibly including healing and health benefits.
How to do it
Benefits of Forest Bathing
The “evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan”[i] shows that forest environments, compared with city environments, promote
- Lower concentrations of cortisol (which is linked to stress and stress-related issues like anxiety, depression, headaches, and others)
- Lower pulse rate
- Lower blood pressure
- greater parasympathetic nerve activity
- lower sympathetic nerve activity
Increase in Human Natural Killer Activity
Another study shows that “A forest bathing trip increases human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins in female subjects”. Read more here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18394317
The beneficial effects of phytoncide
The studies also show the beneficial effects of phytoncide ( “the natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees”[ii]): “phytoncide exposure and decreased stress hormone levels may partially contribute to increased NK activity”, Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20074458
Possible improvement in creativity
“Strayer has demonstrated as much with a group of Outward Bound participants, who performed 50 percent better on creative problem-solving tasks after three days of wilderness backpacking. The three-day effect, he says, is a kind of cleaning of the mental windshield that occurs when we’ve been immersed in nature long enough”. Read more at http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text
Possible Improvements in mood
There are findings showing forest bathing’s potential in significantly improving the mood: “These findings extend earlier work demonstrating the cognitive and affective benefits of interacting with nature to individuals with MDD. Therefore, interacting with nature may be useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments for MDD”.
Forest Bathing – Learn more
Central Park in New York
“Olmsted had already designed Central Park in New York City; he was convinced that beautiful green spaces should exist for all people to enjoy. “It is a scientific fact,” he wrote, “that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character … is favorable to the health and vigor of men and especially to the health and vigor of their intellect.”” http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text
Pediatricians prescribing visits to nature
“NOOSHIN RAZANI AT UCSF BENIOFF Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California, is one of several doctors who have noticed the emerging data on nature and health. As part of a pilot project, she’s training pediatricians in the outpatient clinic to write prescriptions for young patients and their families to visit nearby parks. It’s not as simple as taking a pill. To guide the physicians and patients into a new mind-set, she says, “we have transformed the clinical space so nature is everywhere. There are maps on the wall, so it’s easy to talk about where to go, and pictures of local wilderness, which are healing to look at for both the doctor and patient.” The hospital is partnering with the East Bay Regional Parks District to provide transportation to parks and programs there for entire families.”
“Governments are promoting nature experiences as a public health policy”
“In some countries governments are promoting nature experiences as a public health policy. In Finland, a country that struggles with high rates of depression, alcoholism, and suicide, government-funded researchers asked thousands of people to rate their moods and stress levels after visiting both natural and urban areas. Based on that study and others, Professor Liisa Tyrväinen and her team at the Natural Resources Institute Finland recommend a minimum nature dose of five hours a month—several short visits a week—to ward off the blues. “A 40- to 50-minute walk seems to be enough for physiological changes and mood changes and probably for attention,” says Kalevi Korpela, a professor of psychology at the University of Tampere. He has helped design a half dozen “power trails” that encourage walking, mindfulness, and reflection. Signs on them say things like, “Squat down and touch a plant.”, http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text
“In a “forest kindergarten” in Langnau am Albis, a suburb of Zurich, Switzerland, children spend most of the school day in the woods, regardless of the weather. They learn whittling, fire starting, and denbuilding; they’re able to explore. Supporters say such schools foster self-confidence and an independent spirit.” http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text
“Perhaps no one has embraced the medicalization of nature with more enthusiasm than the South Koreans. Many suffer from work stress, digital addiction, and intense academic pressures. More than 70 percent say their jobs, which require notoriously long hours, make them depressed, according to a survey by electronics giant Samsung. Yet this economically powerful nation has a long history of worshipping nature spirits. The ancient proverb “Shin to bul ee—Body and soil are one” (not body and soul) is still popular”. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text
“Saneum is one of three official healing forests in South Korea, but 34 more are planned by 2017, meaning most major towns will be near one. Chungbuk University offers a “forest healing” degree program, and job prospects for graduates are good; the Korea Forest Service expects to appoint 500 health rangers in the next couple of years. It’s a cradle-to-grave operation: Programs include everything from prenatal forest meditation to woodcrafts for cancer patients to forest burials. A government-run “happy train” takes kids who’ve been bullied into the woods for two days of camping. A hundred-million-dollar healing complex is under construction next to Sobaeksan National Park.
Korea Forest Service scientists used to study timber yields; now they also distill essential oils from trees such as the hinoki cypress and study them for their ability to reduce stress hormones and asthma symptoms”.