Our Parish Nurse, Ann Yeo, recently bid on the Forest Bathing event in our annual auction, and she participated last week with Annie Cubberly as her guide. It was not just a walk in the woods; it was an intentional, meditative experience.

Forest bathing has been defined as the practice of spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness. It includes literally inhaling the forest atmosphere, which is rich in volatile substances emitted by trees, called phytoncides. Purportedly, phytoncides strengthen our immune system by increasing the production of natural killer cells; and they mitigate our response to the stresses of daily life by decreasing the production of the stress hormone cortisol.

Even without access to a forest, connecting with the green world has been shown to positively affect our emotions and our capacity for self-reflection. Non-forest options include sitting, walking in, or overlooking a garden or park; even enjoying fresh flowers or potted plants indoors. (Source: “Forest Bathing and Its Benefits for Nurses and their Families” by Lisa Gwiazda in Beginnings – A Publication of the American Holistic Nurses Association, June 2020, pp. 6-7, 26-27).

Even during a pandemic – when our options for travel and in-person interactions are limited – safely accessing green spaces in one way or another (or bringing nature indoors, especially for those who cannot go outside at all) is possible and desirable – for the potentially-beneficial effects on our physical and mental health. Go green!

-Ann Yeo, RN, MSN, Certified Holistic Nurse