A journey to a Spa to relax and feel good? Today there are those who prefer a walk in the forest, a magnificent therapeutic environment. In addition to beauty, wildlife richness, utility as an ecosystem, this magical place has the power to act on people on a psychological and physiological level.
The volume explains it Forest Therapy 2, (downloadable here in pdf) published by Cnr Edizioni, the result of the research campaign conducted by Cnr through the Institute for BioEconomy (Cnr-Ibe) together with the Cai, through the relevant Central Scientific Committee (Cai-CSC) and the Central Commission Medica (Cai-CCM), and with the scientific collaboration of Cerfit (Aou Careggi, Florence). Here are collected the results of the 2021 campaign, which involved almost a thousand people at over thirty sites in the Apennines, the Alps and urban parks.
What is forest therapy
“It is a complementary medicine in which the therapeutic agent is the forest that transmits the benefits to the human organism through our senses”, explains Francesco Meneguzzoresearcher of the Institute for bioeconomy of the CNR of Florence, technical referent of the CAI, who edited the volume together with his colleague Federica Zabini. “There is scientific and statistical evidence of the positive effects of this therapy, also based on the personal traits of the patients. Like any complementary medicine it must be administered by clinical staff, therefore by psychologists and psychotherapists who work to solicit the connection of the senses with the forest environment and check for any negative aspects, such as being uncomfortable in this environment “.
Born in Japan
Born in Japan in 1982, “Shinrin Yoku”, a term that indicates fully enjoying the benefits of the forest, is a multidisciplinary practice that brings psychological and physiological benefits. Forests are essential ecosystems for life on Earth, for all their functions, from the absorption of CO2 to hydrogeological protection, up to action on human health.
Because it is good
In the forest atmosphere trees and soil release gods volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are of great importance for plant ecology and can have effects on our body and mind. Various studies have shown how some VOCs modulate cytokine release, reduce pain and inflammation, improve mood and sleep quality. Forest therapy prevents depression and alleviates its symptoms, it also acts on chronic pain and psychosis. During the walks, a reduction in stress is also measured thanks to the involuntary capture of attention on the surrounding environment and the possibility of escaping from the worries of everyday life.
The walk and the five senses
“The experience consists of a walk interrupted by long moments of rest during which we focus on the various senses, looking, listening, touching, smelling, tasting”. Colors such as green, blue, brown induce a state of relaxation, reducing circulating levels of cortisol, the inhalation of VOCs is essential because it acts on the neurological level. During the breaks you work on breathing and become aware of your vital functions, getting to breathe up to double. The sounds of the forest, the wind in the branches, the flow of water, are soothing, just as touching leaves or wood indirectly stimulates the parasympathetic system and tasting the berries, mushrooms and roots (obviously well known) improves contact with the nature.
The most favorable conditions
“There are structural elements linked to a greater efficacy of the therapy – explains Meneguzzo – such as the quality of the courses, which must be fairly short, no more than 30 minutes, with a very good base that does not commit attention to where to put your feet. . The environment must be natural, with indigenous trees, not allergenic, and it is better to avoid pollination periods. The presence of conifers is favorable as well as that of waterways. The proximity of a refuge also determines tranquility, because diminuise a possible state of anxiety “.
Hours and months
“All periods of the year are good, the warm semester is more favorable for more intense perfumes and a higher concentration of volatile organic compounds, but in the cold semester, a slight trace of snow has a positive effect”, continues Dr. Meneguzzo. . As for timetables, early morning and early afternoon are recommended in the hot period. In mid-morning and late afternoon there are lower concentrations in the air of terpenes (organic compounds produced by plants, main components of resins and essential oils) which are the agents that bring broad-spectrum benefits to both mental and physiological health, also stimulating the immune defenses “.
There is no need for specific preparation
“There is no need for specific preparation but an attitude of availability, the path does not present any differences in height and the therapy is open to everyone, in some places even to people with mobility problems. The duration is about two and a half hours. , in one day. It would be important to continue at least for a whole weekend to carry the benefits throughout the following month “.
The book also deals with the issue of the economic benefit of therapy, both in terms of defending a natural heritage, with the invitation to the conservation of forest areas, and for the important repercussions on the local economy and the savings of the National Health Service.