The mountains that embrace Waterville Valley were mapped as early as 1524 by explorers to the New World. The peaks surrounding the valley – Tecumseh, Osceola, Sandwich and Tripyramid – have offered the intrepid a place for solace, delight and inspiration ever since.
It’s interesting and amusing to see a resurgence in the practice of forest bathing in the U.S. The concept of forest bathing originated in Japan in the early 1980s. My daughter-in-law, who grew up in Tokyo, explained that the Japanese place great importance on nature – green space, trees, flowers, water, rocks – and you’ll find pocket parks dotting the vast Tokyo landscape.
I read a news article several years ago about a woman who touted the benefits of heading into the forest sans clothing to stimulate her senses, reduce stress and become one with nature.
So, what is forest bathing? It’s something that we’ve been enjoying in Waterville Valley since the early 1800’s. Spending time outdoors, in the fresh air, in nature, the forest, on the trails.
Major media publications have jumped on the forest bathing bandwagon and tout the health benefits of this natural therapy – from lowering blood pressure to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Apparently there’s a scientific reason behind the medical claims, and a reason why we feel so good after a hike or walk in the woods. It’s not just the benefits of physical activity and exposure to fresh air and sunlight. It’s the inhalation of phytoncides, an essential oil released by trees and plants into the atmosphere (antimicrobial volatile organic compounds to be exact).
In a nutshell, there are studies that claim phytoncides enhance human natural killer cell activity. They are used in Asian and Russian medicine to help boost immune systems, fight disease and reduce stress.
According to the website foresttherapytoday, “A study at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan, depicted that people living in the city can actually enjoy all the benefits of phytoncides by spending time in the forest or green spaces. Alternatively, city residents can spend time at parks where they can have access to trees and green views. The study shows, that the beneficial effects of phytoncides on humans can last for more than 30 days. Hence, having a habit of once-a-month forest bathing is sufficient for anyone seeking to gain the tremendous advantages of the healing effect of phytoncides.”
You don’t have to go far. You don’t need special equipment. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete. Nature is on our doorstep in Waterville Valley. Just step outside.