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Healing Nature

Rebecca Lawton, The healing power of nature, AEON, September 6, 2017

Intrinsic Wellbeing

‘The longer the trip, the more healing occurs,’ says the geologist Peter Winn, who has been leading expeditions down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon since the 1960s. ‘Healing happens for people almost without exception.’

The most dramatic transformations that he’s observed have been in disabled military veterans on 16-day kayaking trips organised by a group called Team River Runner. ‘One army communications expert came home from Iraq so full of shrapnel, he’d lost his ability to do even simple math, and would only say “Fuck you.”’ By the end of the trip, he spoke eloquently and at length, in appreciation of both the Canyon and his fellow boaters.

Through the WI Lens

The idea that immersing ourselves in forests and nature has a healing effect is now supported by a growing amount of scientific research. It’s been recognised for a long time by wellbeing practitioners. The tradition of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing – going into the woods for body and mind renewal – has been an established practice in Japan for decades. Our take on this is the following: like in Japan, Forest Therapy Bases, which are well maintained and embraced by the local community, will flourish in many countries around the world – a phenomenon just starting in the United States and other Western countries. As the world accelerates and becomes less forgiving for many who feel left behind or simply overburdened, and as technology engulfs our lives, getting out into nature in general and into the woods in particular will become more of a necessity and therefore an expanding commercial activity. It will soon have to be part of the normal offering of wellness resorts.

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