The pandemic causes stress
Globally, as of 30 January 2021, there have been 101,561,219 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,196,944 deaths, reported to WHO.
The pandemic is causing significant physical, psychological and economic distress around the globe. COVID-19 and the need to quarantine and maintain physical and social distancing have heightened anxiety, isolation and mental health problems.
Therefore, the focus on preventative health and wellbeing to boost immunity and maintain physical and mental health is at the forefront of government health care plans around the world.
The need for being in nature
City parks, community gardens, and other types of natural spaces will become even more essential to urban dwellers if the directive to physically distance from one another becomes longstanding or recurrent.
Given the proven health benefits of Forest Therapy, it is recommended that we spend as much time in the healing atmosphere of forested areas such as the Otway National Park. These forests are teeming with stress reducing, immune boosting and even disease fighting compounds. The sights, sounds and smells of these forest take us right into that moment, so our brains stop anticipating, recalling, ruminating and worrying.
Being in a forested environment also relaxes us, boosts creativity, and helps us unwind and sleep better!
What is Forest Therapy?
Forest Therapy is a research-based public health practice of guided immersion in forests with the aim of promoting mental and physical health whilst relaxing and enjoying the forest. Now recognized and widely practiced as a Public health initiative, Forest Therapy is gaining acknowledgement globally as evidence-based, cost-effective and natural medicine preventive in nature as it combats lifestyle diseases successfully.
Health benefits of Forest Therapy
Research has shown that immersing oneself in nature offers both physiological as well as psychological health benefits. Japanese researchers found that the volatile organic compounds emanated by trees – the phytoncides – increase body immune functions by producing and activating cancer and tumour-fighting cells. Other health benefits include regulated heart rate and blood pressure, lower stress levels and lower blood sugar levels. Typically, anxiety, anger and feelings of depression are also reduced which leads to an overall well-being.
Health benefits of Forest Therapy at Qii House
The Otway National Park surrounding Qii House is an ideal getaway to rest and recuperate in the healing atmosphere of the forest. There’s plenty of opportunity to read a book under the canopy of Mountain Ash trees or take an afternoon nap in the quiet surroundings free of urban noise and distractions. “Rest assured”, your mind and body will be set at ease during your stay with us.
In addition, the Forest Therapy trail at Qii House, the “Zaborin Walk“, is specifically designed to support the physical and mental well-being of guests. The easeful trail gently meanders through the forest, offering filtered light, birdsong, soothing colours, and places to stop, rest and enjoy.
As a guest, all you need to do is set aside some quiet time to take a slow and tranquil meander through the forested trail. Ideally, you should spend at least 20 minutes on your solo outing in the forest.
Follow these simple steps
Leave your phone, camera and digital gadgets behind so that you can really step away from the usual media distractions.
Start by standing or sitting in a comfortable spot and simply look around and above you. Close your eyes and deeply breathe in the forest air and aromas. Tune into the soundscape around you. Linger with the forest sounds that are pleasurable. Notice the breeze against your skin. Smell the air and open your mouth to explore taste. Take time to fully tune into your senses.
“The art of forest bathing is the art of connecting to nature through our senses. All we have to do is accept the invitation.” ~ Dr. Qing Li
When you are ready, open your eyes and start walking. As you meander along the trail, really slow down your pace, as if you are kissing the earth with your feet. Fall into a natural rhythm.
Stop to touch the bark of trees and explore the shapes and veins of the leaves. Notice the details of things that you pass by, giving them your full attention. Bring your awareness to the colours, shapes and patterns of the trees, plants, ferns and moss. Stop and look up through the canopy. Explore the contrasting textures of things you find. Perhaps you notice something that gives you a clue of the animals, birds and insects that share this space with you.
You can also create a piece of ephemeral nature art with things that you collect along the way. It could be a leaf on the ground, a piece of bark, a stone or feather.
Sit for a while on the bench on the trail and look around. Simply relax and enjoy the experience of spending quiet time in the presence of nature.
Bring this experience to a close with a cup of bush tea and a snack prepared by Qii house. Take your time to savour the taste of the forest.
Perhaps you are inspired to write something about your Forest Therapy experience in your own nature journal.
American Public Health Association (APHA) (2020). Nature can boost your mental health during COVID-19 pandemic. News release, April 20. (retrieved: February 1, 2021)
International Nature and Forest Therapy Alliance (INFTA) (2020). International expert recommendations to alleviate stressful mental and physical COVID-19 effects. Press release, August 24. (retrieved: February, 1 2021)
Kobayashi, H., Song, C., Ikei, H., Park, B.-J., Lee, J., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2018). Forest Walking Affects Autonomic Nervous Activity: A Population-Based Study. Frontiers in public health, 6, 278.
Kotte, D., Li, Q., Shin, W. S., & Michalsen, A. (2019). International Handbook of Forest Therapy. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publisher.
Li, Q., Kobayashi, M., Inagaki, H., Hirata, Y., Li, Y. J., Hirata, K., . . . Kagawa, T. (2010). A day trip to a forest park increases human natural killer activity and the expression of anti-cancer proteins in male subjects. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents, 24(2), 157-165.