Hiking in Nature = Improved Mental Health?

By Mark A. Ellison, Ed.D.

Fall is a wonderful time to be in nature. The leaves are turning radiant hues, the air is crisp, and the sky is a deep blue. Nature has even more umph to refresh our mind, body and spirit.

Shining Rock Wilderness in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina

Shining Rock Wilderness in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina

Researchers at Stanford University recently found that walking in nature is not only awe inspiring but provides measurable mental health benefits and may even reduce the risk of depression. Specifically, the study found that people who walked in a nature area for 90 minutes compared to participants walking in an urban area, had decreased activity in the brain associated with a key factor for depression. “These findings are important because they are consistent with, but do not yet prove, a causal link between increasing urbanization and increased rates of mental illness,” said co-author James Gross, a professor of psychology at Stanford.

The study authors note that city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders as well as a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders compared to people living in rural settings. People born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.

This research is important as urban planners identify how to best use limited resources, and national and state parks grapple with how to manage the demands of a growing population on finite public lands. People who live in settings that have constant noise and little nature need a place to escape. It is also critical that children are introduced to nature and learn how to utilize it for maintaining good mental and physical health throughout life.20151006_180640_resized

Continued research on the connections between nature and human well-being are vital. Important work is being done by The Natural Capital Project which is focused on quantifying the value of natural resources to the public and predicting benefits from investments in nature. It is a joint venture of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

Being able to quantify and predict the benefits that nature offers to human health may be the strongest case that can be made for preserving nature. A world void of places to escape in nature is truly a depressing concept, one hopefully we will never have to experience. Our mental health hinges on it.

Finding Quiet Can Be Elusive, Even in Nature

By Mark A. Ellison, Ed.D.

Perhaps you noticed that we live in a noisy world. Maybe it is the constant hum of traffic, or the construction near your office, or the neighbors that are constantly using lawn equipment. It is difficult to escape. Over half the world’s population now lives in urban settings, making it extremely difficult to find quiet if you live in these settings. Even in rural areas, finding places free of human created noise is not easy.

nature pic

The National Park Service recently created a map that indicates that many people live in areas where night skies and soundscapes are very degraded. The blue areas of the map below indicate places where noise is less prevalent. Unfortunately, most of the eastern United States is brightly colored indicating significant noise and light pollution. The park service also found that even in more natural backcountry settings noise is prevalent due to hikers, maintenance equipment and other sources. Excessive noise is harmful not only to human health, but to wildlife as well. Certain species of animals avoid noisy places. America_Quiet

Fortunately there are places such as the “One Square Inch” project in Olympic National Park that are treated as sanctuaries for silence, to experience the quiet of nature, and used to help build awareness of the need for more areas like it.

A number of research studies have linked excessive noise with increased levels of violence and crime. Humans need to experience some levels of quiet and solitude to remain healthy. Nature provides a primary escape for this. However, if the dwindling areas of nature are not protected, there will no more places offering this type of escape.

Many of us struggle to hear our “inner voice”, to live a balanced life, and to take time to reflect. The Cherokee have a term for living life in balance, duyuktv. Take time to find a quiet natural area nearby and soak in some of the restorative power of nature, to find a sense of balance, of duyuktv. Once you have captured that restoration, share it with others. Then, work together to help protect the natural areas where you live and explore.

A Walk in Nature is Good for Your Health Even if it’s “Brrr” Outside

By Florence Williams, Guest Writer

By all accounts, the weather for most of this winter has been unusually lousy all up and down the East Coast. As the Washington Post’s weather team explains it, an amplified jet stream pattern has created a “sliding board of significant cold air deliveries,” not to mention broken chunks of the polar vortex barreling down from Hudson Bay. Translation: Brrr.

Photo by Mark Ellison

Photo by Mark Ellison

Yesterday morning was cold and gray in D.C., the temperature on my phone reading 28 degrees. On the streets and sidewalks, icy patches remained of the previous day’s sleet.

Still, I knew I should go for my regular walk along the C&O Canal. It’s mostly scenic, although to get there I have to cross a freeway. And in winter, with the leaves gone, that freeway sounds and looks closer to the canal once you’re on it. I knew my feet would be cold and the ground hard, potentially treacherous is spots. No doubt about it; walking in the dead of DC winter is kind of a drag.

I know what you’re expecting me to say, that once I was out there it wasn’t so bad and I had a rewarding experience communing with the ice crystals and the clouds and the bracing breeze. But I’m not going to say that, because the fact is I didn’t enjoy it very much.  On these cold days (and we’ve had a lot of them – January and February so far have been among Washington’s very coldest), it takes me a full 20 minutes of vigorous walking to stop being stiff with shivers. Even after that point, I still grumble. Oh man, it sucks out here. Sometimes the wind bites into my collar and the balls of my feet go numb. I’d rather be holding a hot cup of tea and wearing sheepskin slippers in the breeze of my heat duct.

Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy the solitude and beauty of nature in winter.  Photo by Mark Ellison

Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy the solitude and beauty of nature in winter.
Photo by Mark Ellison

So why do I go? We all need a little sunshine, but this dark winter I haven’t even had that justification.  I go because of how I feel after. On these days, I like not the walking but the having walked.  I like the satisfaction of conquering my couch potato instincts, but more than that I tend to have a good day.  I can focus at work, my mood is even and I tend to sleep better.

Neuropsych research backs me up.  Marc Berman, now at the University of South Carolina, found that even when his research subjects walked through an arboretum in a Michigan winter, they performed better on cognitive tests than they had before the walk and better than subjects who walked through an urban setting.

We might not always crave spinach either, but that doesn’t mean we should only reach for pie. Regular walks in nature are usually pleasant, but even when they’re not, they’re “good for us.” Of course saying something is good for you is a sure way to make it a chore. How to avoid that? Other experts suggest keeping it fun, maybe by walking with friends or keeping your mind engaged. For me, knowing I’ll  sleep and work well is usually (but not always) motivation enough. For those other days, please pass the tea.

Florence Williams

Florence Williams

Florence Williams
Florence Williams is a contributing editor at Outside Magazine and a freelance writer for New York TimesNew York Times MagazineSlate, Mother JonesHigh Country NewsO-Oprah, W., Bicycling and numerous other publications. Her first book, BREASTS: A Natural and Unnatural History  (W.W. Norton 2012) received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science and technology and the 2013 Audie in general nonfiction. It was also named a notable book of 2012 by the New York Times.

Five Ways Nature Can Prepare Your Brain for Success in 2014

Organizations are always looking for ways to improve workplace productivity, develop leaders, and help employees work more efficiently. Spending all day inside, in a cubicle that reverberates with stress drains attention, saps creativity, reduces productivity, and negatively impacts leadership ability. To lead effectively the brain needs to be at optimal functioning capacity.

Cross-country skiing on the Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina, USA) Photo by Mark Ellison

Cross-country skiing on the Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina, USA)
Photo by Mark Ellison

As we kick off 2014, why not resolve to deal more effectively with your workplace stress in a way that will jump-start your brain for success: spend time in nature. There is a growing body of research that shows time in nature prepares the brain for optimal functioning. Time in nature also helps to tap into the things we are passion about, develop a sense of purpose and increase productivity.

Going into nature provides restoration and the opportunity to disconnect or escape phones, computers, televisions,noise and other stress inducing variables which have a negative impact on physical and mental health. Here are five ways getting away from stress and  spending time in nature can impact your effectiveness at work, and possibly make your boss happier:

1. Improve attention capacity and the ability to focus: Stephen and Rachel Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory is based on the concept of soft fascination, or the soothing sights and sounds of nature that are relaxing, allowing attention capacities to rest,  leaving room for reflection. One type of soft fascination is the sound of birds, which a recent study found to be the most preferred form of fascination.

Sunset at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park Photo by Mark Ellison

Sunset at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
Photo by Mark Ellison

2. Enhance creativity: Research by faculty at the University of Utah and University of Kansas found that spending time in nature can improve creativity up to 50%. Being more creative on the job means you can generate better ideas and more innovative solutions to problems.

3. Increase cognitive ability: Spending time in nature increases cognitive abilities. Part of this is clearing the mind of distractions.

4. Improve memory: Heavy multitasking can make it difficult to remember things. Research has found that time in nature positively impacts the ability to remember.

5. Reduce stress and elevate mood: Our brains on stress are a jumbled mess. The stress that builds up in our mind impacts the entire body in a negative way if not properly dealt with. This can have negative consequences on the ability to work with others, and cause issues of workplace incivility. Time in nature reduces stress and elevates our mood, which can impact productivity and the ability to work with others. A recent study conducted by Lisa Nisbet for the David Suzuki Foundation 30X30 Nature Challenge found that spending time in nature increases happiness and self reported levels of productivity!

Here are a few suggestions on how to incorporate nature into your health and personal development plan in 2014:

1. Practice mindfulness/meditation in nature: You have to take time to slow your mind and body down and be in the present moment for your brain to begin to let go of stress and “cognitive leftovers” from the days activities. This is at the heart of mindfulness, which is now being utilized in cutting edge leadership development programs, and identified by the Center for Creative Leadership as “one of the five big leadership ideas.” Nature is the perfect setting to practice mindfulness and meditation. Janice Maturano recently published a book on this topic, Finding the Space to Lead.  Try this as a mindfulness exercise in nature:

Sunlight on a mountain stream (North Carolina) Photo by Mark Ellison

Sunlight on a mountain stream (North Carolina)
Photo by Mark Ellison

Find a quiet place in nature and just be. Close your eyes and for 15 minutes enjoy the sounds of nature. Notice what is happening in the environment and you: sounds, sensations, thoughts and feelings. Then, focus on your breathing. Don’t manipulate it, just breath in and out through your nose. Your mind is going to wonder, each time it does, return your attention to your breath. As thoughts and emotions come and go, don’t linger on them, let them go, they will pass away.

2. Green exercise: Exercising in nature essentially multiplies the benefits of exercise, helping the body and mind. Find a greenway or nature trail where you can go for a walk on your lunch break, or after work. Don’t listen to music, enjoy the sounds of the birds, the wind, and notice the beauty of nature. If you have more time, plan a hike for several hours, or bike on a rail trail.  I incorporate time in nature into my overall tracking of health goals. Just as I track the  minutes of cardio exercise, yoga, and the number of steps taken each day, I also record the time I spend in nature.This is easily done in an Excel spreadsheet where I can analyze trends in my health behavior.

3. Nature journal:  Take 15 minutes a day to start a nature journal. All you need is a notebook, a pencil or pen and a nature spot. Keeping a nature journal can help you clear your mind and focus on nature more directly. When you do a journal entry, record the date and time, weather conditions and your impressions of the setting. Identify something in nature that captivates your attention and draw it to scale. An excellent resource for learning more about nature journaling is a book by Clare Leslie and Charles Roth, “Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You.”

4. Practice Shinrin yoku: Shrin yoku is spending time in nature, just enjoying the experience, taking in the beauty and peace it offers. A good resource for this is a book written by wilderness guide Amos Clifford, “A Little Handbook of Shrin yoku.” 

5. Be a Nature Advocate: Advocate for policies that bring nature into your work environment or for access to nature near the workplace. This could be as simple as having plants and pictures of nature in the workplace, and  tables outside for meetings or lunch breaks.

An excellent resource on nature and the brain is Eva Selhub and Alan Logan’s book Your Brain on Nature. It is great read, and references many research studies.

Spending time in nature does not need to be complicated or time consuming and can last as little as fifteen 15 minutes or an entire day. Remember, the amount of time you spend in nature, and the quality of the environment you are in will directly impact how well nature heals your mind and body. Incorporate time in nature into your health routine and  reap the benefits it offers your brain in 2014.

Note: The North American Chapter of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine will host a webinar on January 28, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. EST. Dr. Lisa Nisbet, assistant professor of psychology at Trent University in Ontario will discuss her research on nature relatedness and happiness. Register online at http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EA52DE87814E3D.

Kalevi Korpela Discusses Finland’s “Power Forests” for Well-being and Emerging Research

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Kalevi Korpela at the joint conferences of the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations in May 2013. It was at this conference that we had the initial meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine. Dr. Korpela, Professor of Psychology at the University of Tampere in Finland, is on the board of (INFOM) based in Tokyo, Japan. Dr. Korpela’s research has made significant contributions to the understanding of how nature impacts human health and well-being. He took time recently to answer several questions about his research and the “Power Forests” for wellbeing in Finland and other European countries.

Dr. Kalevi Korpela, Professor of Psychology, University of Tampere Photo courtesy University of Tampere, Finland

Dr. Kalevi Korpela, Professor of Psychology, University of Tampere
Photo courtesy University of Tampere, Finland

Hiking Research: What inspired you to pursue psychology as a career and to research how nature impacts well-being?

Kalevi Korpela: I remember being interested in psychology already in high school. After matriculation, I was thinking about architecture or psychology for university studies but only went to psychology exams. I did like and still like this Dostoyevski quote: “A human being is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time.” At our department of psychology in Tampere University we had a tradition of environmental psychological studies dating back to early seventies. In my master’s thesis I found myself being interested in environmental psychology and writing a thesis on cognitive maps of the city.

Hiking Research: What research projects are you currently involved with?

Kalevi Korpela: The project “Urban Diversity” 2010-2013 is ending. We have tried to figure out how to combine building and the possibilities of nature in fruitful ways in process planning. The research consortium includes the Tampere University of Technology (School of Architecture), Departments of Regional Studies and Psychology at the Univ. of Tampere.

The project “Recovery from work stress: integrating perspectives of work and environmental psychology”, 2012-2016, investigates the relationship between “green exercise”, indoor plants, window views and recovery from work stress in a 3-year longitudinal survey. We also carry out interventions during the lunch break (relaxation, park walks) to investigate short-term recovery from stress during the workday.

The project “Outdoor recreation 2009”, 2010- , is a survey study of outdoor recreation and well-being using a representative sample of Finns. A recent paper about this data is Korpela, K., Borodulin, K., Neuvonen, M., Paronen, O., & Tyrväinen, L. (2013). Analyzing the mediators between nature-based outdoor recreation and emotional well-being. Journal of Environmental Psychology. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.11.003. (An earlier paper is also available online through the journal Health Promotion International). The research consortium includes the Finnish Forest Research Institute (FFRI/METLA), Statistics Finland, University of Tampere, The National Institute for Health and Welfare, Centre for Health Promotion Research (UKK Institute), and MTT Agrifood Research Finland.

The project “Green infrastructures for health in the future living environments (GreenHealth)”, 2013-2014 has carried out the walking experiments in Helsinki city center, an urban park and urban woodlands. The first results are in press in Journal of Environmental Psychology. The research consortium includes The Finnish Forest Research Institute (FFRI/METLA), The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Dept of Psychology (Univ. of Tampere), and the Japanese team who has carried out tens of walking experiments in Japan: Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, (Prof., Dr. Takahide Kagawa, Dr. Yuko Tsunetsugu, and Dr. Norimasa Takayama); Nippon Medical School (Dr. MD Qing Li) and Chiba University (Prof., Dr. Yoshifumi Miyazaki)

LEADER- project “Forest Project – Network of densely wooded regions in Europe”, 2012-2013 has created awareness-enhancing / engagement-based forest trails to four countries. Forest trail partners are Finland (Finnish Forest Research Institute and University of Tampere), Sweden, Luxembourg and France. The project partners and funders also include LAG (=Leader action group) Växtlust, Sweden; LAG Müllerthal, Luxembourg; LAG Pays de la Déodatie, France; Aktiivinen Pohjois-Satakunta ry, Finland. Funders include EU, several municipalities, and some private funders.

A view from a trail in the "Power Forest" in Finland.  Photo courtesy Finnish Forest Research Institute

A view from a trail in the “Power Forest” in Finland.
Photo courtesy Finnish Forest Research Institute

The first trail (of this kind, ever; according to our knowledge) was opened on May 20, 2010 near Ikaalinen Spa, Finland (view brochure). We developed the trail in the “Health from the Forest” project 2008-2010 in co-operation with the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Parkano Unit) and Ikaalinen Spa. The project was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Council of Tampere Region.

The idea is that the awareness-enhancing psychological tasks along the trail may allow even less ideal environments to be experienced in stress-alleviating ways and help people to be physically active. The tasks were written by K. Korpela and their ideas draw from several lines of research: a) experimental research results on the onset of psychological, physiological and behavioral changes in restorative natural settings, b) studies on people’s everyday favorite places and their restorative qualities, c) studies on the effects of cognitive sets and role-taking on human perception and environmental attitudes d) studies on psychology of suggestive information.

Thus, the tasks aim to i.a. induce relaxation, improve mood, induce cognitive reflection and attentional restoration, and enhance the search for a favorite place which can be socially shared.

In the LEADER-project, identical tasks were used in all four countries and the wordings were translated from the original Finnish trail signposts. User surveys are presently collected from each country to investigate people’s attitudes in these trails and tasks.


Hiking Research: What needs to happen for the use of “forest therapy” to become more accepted by healthcare providers? Is nature often used by psychotherapists in European countries?

Kalevi Korpela: We need more solid and causal evidence of the effects of forest therapy and nature’s restorative effects, in general. For example, the Finnish Current Care Guidelines are very strict and require good scientific evidence for any procedure to be accepted as care. Current Care Guidelines are independent, evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.

The guidelines are intended as a basis for treatment decisions, and can be used by physicians, healthcare professionals and citizens. The guidelines are developed by the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim in association with various medical specialist societies.
We also need more co-operation, and need to provide more informing and PR work for healthcare providers. I do not know the European situation but know that there are perhaps half a dozen psychologists in Finland who use nature in their practice.

Hiking Research: What are your suggestions for using nature to help people cope with work stress? Have you worked with organizations that are utilizing nature to help employees improve health? If so, describe what they are doing?

Kalevi Korpela: I will be wiser on this after our research project (see above). But indoor plants and window views might be important in workplaces as well as possibilities for being in a greenspace during the lunchbreak. Our forest trail project has shown that spas might include these trails in their activities.

Hiking Research: Do you collaborate with forestry researchers? If so, how? How can we promote more interdisciplinary collaboration focused on how nature impacts health?

Kalevi Korpela: Yes, I have co-operated a lot with the Finnish Forest Research Institute In Finland as well as in Europe (the COST system), we have funding systems for collaboration and for creating networks for interdisciplinary collaboration. Societies like the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine are important.

Prescriptions for Parks Bill Provides Free State Park Access

An obstacle to the use of nature for improved health is often healthcare providers who are unaware of where to send patients who could benefit from time in nature, and who could help the patient once they go to a park or nature area. This  is preventing many people from connecting with the natural environment and experiencing the health benefits it offers. With over 72 million people in the United States considered medically obese and over 40% considered sedentary (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) it is imperative to find innovative ways to promote health and well-being. A missing link to encourage people to utilize nature for improved health is free access to nature areas, specifically public lands.

Photo by Mark Ellison

Photo by Mark Ellison

New Jersey Assemblywoman BettyLou Decroce (R) is taking one of the first steps in this direction. She introduced a bill that would create “Prescriptions for Parks,” allowing healthcare practitioners to write a prescription for a New Jersey State park pass for individuals diagnosed with obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and heart disease, which maybe treated with exercise. New York, Chicago, Indiana, New Mexico and California have implemented similar park prescription programs.

Describing the need for Prescription for Parks program Decroce states, “Healthcare practitioners cannot emphasize enough the importance of exercise as part of a individual’s treatment program especially for those with metabolic, respiratory and cardiac conditions. This measure provides those suffering from these diseases an incentive to not only exercise, but an opportunity to do so outdoors, surrounded by the beauty of our state’s natural resources. Treadmills and exercise bikes are great for physical fitness, but there’s nothing like a hike, a jog or swim in the forests and lakes or rivers found in nature. Our State parks are an underutilized resource, by incentivizing residents to exercise and visit State parks citizens will be healthier, insurance companies will shoulder less of a burden, healthcare tax dollars will be saved and New Jersey’s beautiful parks will be highlighted and enjoyed.”

Photo by Mark Ellison

Photo by Mark Ellison

The Park Prescription pass would be valid for free entrance and parking to all 50 State park facilities for two 12-week sessions, and could be renewed. Also included in the bill is a requirement for the Division of Parks and Forestry to develop a brochure for suggested workouts within park facilities, utilizing already established activity programs and trails.

This is a model that should be considered nationally for all state and national parks where a park prescription would provide free access.  To maximize the potential of this program, classes need to be offered at parks that help people understand how exercising and spending time in nature impacts mental and physical health.Offering educational programs that include ecotherapy professionals such as horticultural therapists or the emerging field of forest therapy would raise the level of health benefits experienced by visitors to parks. Nature provides many health benefits, but utilizing the expertise of these professional therapists trained in how to tap into the restorative power of nature is essential to help participants fully benefit from their time in nature, and to continue to experience the benefits once they return home.

There are a number of programs  that are encouraging exercise and promoting the use of public lands as a health resource.

-Indianapolis based non-profit Exercise in Medicine has developed toolkits to educate healthcare care professional on effective methods for prescribing exercise.

-The Prescription Trails program in New Mexico that developed a trail rating system simplifying the process of identifying and prescribing trails.

-The Children and Nature Initiative in Brooklyn prepares “nature champions” to train other healthcare practitioners to prescribe outdoor activities for children.

-The Kids in Parks Initiative sponsored in part by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is designed to connect and promote child health, park health, and community health. One of the programs is designed to make hiking more attractive and has a website for participants to log miles hiked to receive prizes related to outdoor activity.

Green Gyms in England  are structured programs to use gardening, trail maintenance, environmental conservation, and other nature-based activities as exercise. They are promoted as a fun and free alternative to gyms.

The Institute at the Golden Gate offers a top-notch resource guide for developing Park Prescription programs.

The National Recreation and Park Association recently published a review of five Park Prescription programs.

We must develop a framework that supports patients so they can seamlessly transition from a healthcare provider to exercising in nature.This will require educating healthcare providers on the health benefits of time in nature; developing resource guides to help providers make recommendations on where patients can go, and to help patients navigate the options; and having educational programs at parks to introduce people to nature and how it positively impacts their health. To support this healthcare flexible spending accounts should cover expenses related to exercising in nature and state parks such as entry fees and program registration costs. Health insurance should cover the cost of ecotherapy preventive care programs.

This type of program requires collaboration and innovative thinking. Grant funding will be required to get it off the ground. Once implemented, this could transform the health of a community.

Warriors Hike the Appalachian Trail as Ecotherapy for PTSD

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,180 mile “green tunnel” extending from Georgia to Maine offering access to solitude and the healing power of nature for millions of people. In 2013, 1,130 hardy souls thru hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) northbound. Some hiked the trail as a personal challenge, others for the thrill of adventure, and many set out on the quest for personal transformation.  We all fight different battles and nature offers a balm that can heal many psychological and spiritual wounds.

2013 Warrior Hikers Photo courtesy of Warrior Hike

2013 Warrior Hikers
Photo courtesy of Warrior Hike

What better setting to walk off the stress of war than the AT? The November/December issue of Journeys Magazine, the official publication of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has an article on the Warrior Hike “Walk off the War” program, designed for combat veterans transitioning from their military service. The program was inspired by Earl Shaffer, the first person to thru hike the AT in 1948, who told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds, and losses of World War II. Recognizing the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of long distance hiking, Warrior Hike partnered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, and the Pacific Crest Trail Association to offer thru hiking experiences for returning combat veterans.

Viewing the beauty of autumn leaves in a forest can be used as a form of ecotherapy, providing healing to the mind, body, and spirit. Photo by Mark Ellison

Viewing the beauty of autumn leaves in a forest can be used as a form of ecotherapy, providing healing to the mind, body, and spirit.
Photo by Mark Ellison

The Warrior Hike program was spearheaded by Sean Gobin, a USMC Captain who thru hiked the AT in 2012 after returning from active duty in Afghanistan.The 13 participants selected to participate in the Warrior Hike program in 2013 received the equipment and supplies needed to complete a thru hike, support in towns along the AT from veterans and hiking organizations, and job placement assistance once they completed the hike. Veterans must apply to be part of the program, and applications are currently being accepted for 2014.wh

Since 2001 over 2.5 million veterans have returned home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but many of them have never transitioned from their experiences. This is evident by the recent report from the Department of Veteran Affairs which states that over 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD affects over 7 million American adults and  “develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers. PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.” Symptoms of PTSD include having flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts; feeling emotionally numb, guilty, depressed or worried; and being easily startled, on edge, or having angry outbursts.

An autumn snow on the Appalachian Trail near Mt. Rogers (Virginia) Photo by Mark Ellison

An autumn snow on the Appalachian Trail near Mt. Rogers (Virginia)
Photo by Mark Ellison

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects thousands of veterans returning from combat, but also many others who have experienced trauma in different settings. Lets face it, we live in a violent world. The therapeutic use of time in nature to help heal psychological and spiritual wounds can bring renewed hope to individuals, their families, and society as a whole. Time in nature can be powerfully transforming. Many of us know this intuitively, and research is beginning to substantiate this. Assessing the healing that combat veterans experience on the AT through a research project associated with the Warrior Hike program could help to attract additional funding to support it, and encourage healthcare providers to recommend hiking the Appalachian Trail as a treatment alternative for people who have experienced traumatic events. The Warrior Hike program is a wonderful example of how to use nature for healing (ecotherapy) and should be emulated to help as many as possible experience the restorative power that nature offers.

Seven Ways to Make Nature as Easy to Connect to at Work as the Internet

We can access any type of technology in the workplace in an instant. Online we can hit social media sites, check email and post pictures with ease. Why don’t we make it just as easy to incorporate nature into our work spaces? There are many motives for organizations to encourage this including  having healthier, more satisfied employees, as well as improving employee effectiveness on the job.

In the United States obesity is a major health issue that costs organizations millions in associated healthcare costs. Having green space near the workplace encourages exercise. Linked to this, The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently adopted a new policy statement focused on promoting healthy and active lifestyles by  encouraging land use decisions that prioritize access to natural areas and green spaces for residents of all ages, abilities and income levels. APHA calls on public health, medical and other health professionals to raise awareness among patients and the public at-large about the health benefits of spending time in nature and of nature-based play and recreation and encourages healthcare professionals to form partnerships with relevant stakeholders, such as parks departments, school districts and nature centers. The policy statement also calls for promoting natural landscaping. All of this points to the need for have more access to nature in all settings, particularly near the workplace where people spend a large part of their day.

Enjoying the "soft fascination" of beautiful fall leaves. Photo by Mark Ellison

Enjoying the “soft fascination” of beautiful fall leaves.
Photo by Mark Ellison

We need to make nature as easy to connect to at work as the internet.It really should not be that difficult, but we make it that way by designing cities without adequate green spaces, and work spaces that do not take into account the health of employees. Complicating the problem, we don’t adequately communicate how spending time in nature impacts health and well-being, and  people who have lived in urban settings most of their life may have little understanding of the abundant health benefits nature offers.

One way to incorporate nature into our busy lives is to find ways to experience its benefits in or near our workplace. Here are seven tips for experiencing nature at work.

1) Have plants in your work space: Having plants in your work space can help lower blood pressure and perceived levels of stress, improve focus, help clean the air, in addition to providing aesthetically pleasing elements to the space. If you work at a computer most of the day, having plants in the field of vision of your screen is key.

2) Sounds of nature: Noise is a big stress inducing factor in many workplaces. Being able to introduce nature sounds that are more relaxing can help to improve focus and reduce stress. One Square Inch, a sanctuary for silence at Olympic National Park provides a wonderful recording of nature to block out noise.

Residents of Abingdon and Damascus, Virginia use The Virginia Creeper Trail for "green exercise". The trail starts in downtown Abingdon and runs 34 miles through Damascus to Whitetop, Virginia. Photo by Mark Ellison

Residents of Abingdon and Damascus, Virginia use The Virginia Creeper Trail for “green exercise”. The trail starts in downtown Abingdon and runs 34 miles through Damascus to Whitetop, Virginia.
Photo by Mark Ellison

3) Have walking/hiking meetings or meet outside: Having walking or hiking meetings allows the opportunity to discuss important topics and get exercise simultaneously. Exercise also stimulates the brain and can aid in enhancing creativity if the exercise is in a green environment. Most of us sit entirely  too much, and walking meetings can also help us get 10,000 steps a day, the minimum recommended to maintain health. If walking/hiking meetings are not an option, have tables and chairs outside the office for meetings.

4) Pictures/artwork of nature: Ideally work spaces will have windows that offer natural light and views of nature. If this is not the case, use photos or artwork of nature to introduce nature to the setting. It could be pictures of a favorite spot you go to escape, a breathtaking sunset, or beautiful flowers. Nature pictures/paintings have been found to be relaxing. In contrast abstract art, particularly in healthcare settings for patients, has been found to be upsetting.

5)Take a break or lunch outside: If there is a park or greenway nearby this is a great escape to help reduce stress, get some vitamin D and breathe some fresh air. If parks or greenways are not available, bring your own portable chair and find a nice place to relax. If only for fifteen minutes this can help improve your mood and feelings of well-being.

6) Offer “on the clock” nature classes/activities: The National Outdoor Learning School (NOLS) offers employees one day a year “on the clock” to get outside and enjoy nature. This is often done in groups and leads to team building as well as improved health. Organizations can offer classes that introduce employees to the health benefits of time in nature, and then have experiential programs that get them out into it. The rewards are significant for the organization (improved employee health and effectiveness) as well as for the employees.

7) Have planning retreats at a botanical garden: Many botanical gardens also offer meetings spaces. These make ideal settings to get out of the office for planning, while also helping to reduce stress. Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Belmont, NC and Winghaven Gardens  in Charlotte are two that I have utilized with wonderful results.

Improving personal health as well as increasing effectiveness are going to be major priorities for organizations going forward. Google is an organization that gets this and offers numerous perks to improve employee health, well-being and satisfaction. Healthcare is moving to a model of “prevention” to reduce spiraling costs. Organizations continue to search for ways to do more with less. Creating healthier, more natural workplace environments will help to achieve both objectives.

Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet Discusses 30×30 Nature Challenge Research and Using Nature to Maximize Well-being

Organizations are desperately trying to identify ways to encourage improved employee health and well-being, and nature offers an underutilized and often overlooked opportunity for this. Some of the obstacles that have prevented nature from being embraced include many people not understanding the health benefits associated with nature contact, how these benefits impact work effectiveness, and methods that can be used to encourage  employees to spend time in nature. Connecting to nature has been made more difficult than it needs to be.

A model for how to encourage people to develop a connection with nature is the 30×30 Nature Challenge developed by the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) in Canada. The 30×30 Nature Challenge is an annual program aimed at  increasing Canadians’ contact with the natural environment.To be involved in the challenge, participants voluntarily signed up on the DSF website before May 1st and pledged to spend a minimum of 30 minutes outdoors, in contact with nature, for 30 days during the month of May. A number of workplaces publicized the challenge and the DSF provided toolkits, designed specifically for employers, containing tips that encouraged employees to spend time outdoors and in nature. Individual participants received email updates and were able to visit the DSF 30×30 challenge website throughout the month of May for further suggestions on how to incorporate more nature contact into their daily life.

hr_october

In 2013 participants were involved in a research study conducted by the DSF and Dr. Elizabeth (Lisa) Nisbet, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at Trent University in Ontario.

Over 10,000 people participated in the research study, with 2,285 submitting information that could be utilized for analysis.The results revealed that overall, the 30×30 challenge was successful in encouraging participants to increase their nature contact. Participants also reported increased nature relatedness and well-being at the end of the challenge. “The 30×30 nature challenge was a voluntary commitment and the respondents were self-selected, but the results suggested that increased nature contact had benefits for increasing happiness,” said Nisbet.  Participants almost doubled their weekly nature contact participating in the challenge, and also had better moods and less stress at the end of the challenge.

Effects of the 30×30 Nature Challenge on Work Functioning
A number of workplaces across Canada publicized the challenge to their employees. At the beginning of the survey, respondents were asked if they had learned about the 30×30 challenge at work. Participants who indicated ‘yes’ were directed to three additional questions about job functioning. Participants were asked how satisfied they were with their job in the previous month, how well they were getting along with colleagues, and how productive they felt they were in their work role. Participants reported no changes in either job satisfaction or interactions with co-workers. However, people did feel they were being slightly more productive in their work roles at the end of the challenge.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Elizabeth (Lisa) Nisbet about the 30×30 challenge and how organizations and communities can utilize the results of this study. Dr. Nisbet’s research has focused on individual differences in subjective connectedness with nature (nature relatedness or NR) and the links with health, well-being (happiness), and environmentally sustainable behaviour.

Hiking Research: What is the most important thing to take away from the results of the Nature Challenge?

Elizabeth (Lisa) Nisbet, Ph.D.

Elizabeth (Lisa) Nisbet, Ph.D.

Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet: The key finding (and maybe most exciting result) from the 30×30 nature challenge is it’s possible to change how we spend our time and, as a result, improve our well-being.  There is room in our busy lives for a few hours of nature contact each week.  The nature challenge participants were able to double their weekly nature time during the month of May, and this increased nature contact was associated with significant increases in happiness.  The way we spend our leisure time influences how we feel – physically and mentally – and this is within our control, to some extent.  In other words, if we know about nature’s effects on our well-being, we can make informed decisions about where to spend our time and choose environments that enhance rather than detract from our health.  By getting outdoors, for a walk, hike, or other activity in nature, we’re improving our psychological health but also strengthening our bond with the natural world.  This is good for us, and good for our environment.

Hiking Research: How can communities and organizations adapt the concept of the 30x 30 Nature Challenge for their own initiatives?

Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet: Because our modern lifestyles often separate us (physically and psychologically) from nature, many people may not get regular doses of nature contact.  By setting goals to spend time in nature we can ensure we don’t neglect this important connection.  The health benefits of nature contact are relevant for both individuals and organizations.  We benefit, in terms of our personal happiness, from time in nature, but there are also spillover effects.  The nature contact we have in our leisure time appears to carry over into other life domains.  In other words, connecting with nature contributes to our well-being even after we leave the natural environment and go back to our homes and workplaces.  People who have a strong sense of connection with the natural world are generally happier, and this has benefits for health and productivity.  The research on nature and greenspace shows that even having a view of nature from a window reduces our frustration and improves our well-being. Another benefit of connecting with nature is that it fosters greater concern for the natural environment.  People are more motivated to care for something if they feel connected to it. This connection with nature can foster social cohesion and thus strengthen communities as they work together.

Hiking Research: What are your suggestions for helping people disconnect from technology and to connect to nature?

Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet: It can be a challenge to unplug. Finding ways to incorporate nature contact into our routine is one way to ensure we get enough outdoor time.  Making regular time for nature, just like other health habits, even in small doses, is helpful for improving our well-being. Active commuting (biking, walking, etc.) to work or school is another way to connect with nearby urban nature. If distances make this impossible, then taking a walk during work breaks can restore our focus and boost our mood. In order to disconnect from technology and reconnect with our environment we may need to think about nature differently – not just as leisure, but as an essential part of our day and an important health practice.

Hiking Research: Describe the research projects you are currently involved with.

Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet: We have a number of nature contact studies going on in my lab. We are studying the effects of experiential environmental education on nature connectedness and environmental concern. We are also using a nature contact intervention (similar to the 30×30 challenge) to investigate how spending time in nature may affect students’ stress levels and psychological health.  Another research project underway is testing how citizen science experiences influence well-being and environmental concern.  Participants in our Wildlife CSI (Compost Scene Identification) study are contributing to actual research looking at how composting influences scavenger behaviour.  I am interested in how this, and other, citizen science ventures affect connectedness with nature as well as happiness. Learning about the plants and animals in our ecosystems may enhance our sense of connection with nature, our happiness, and motivate more environmentally sustainable behaviour.

Final Thoughts: The 30X30 Nature Challenge offers an excellent example of an initiative communities and organizations can utilize to encourage spending time in nature. Organizations can provide incentives for participation such as “wellness credits” that can be applied towards insurance premiums, or offering time “on the clock” for employees to spend time in nature as a group. Communities can use this type of initiative to encourage all residents to get outside, while targeting communities that are distressed and more likely to not have access to green space with special programs.

Using “Bioenergetic Landscapes” in Italy to Improve Human Well-Being

One of the purposes of Hiking Research is to bring to the forefront how nature is utilized to improve health and well-being. I have recently had the opportunity to learn about the work of Marco Nieri of Bologna, Italy, an ecodesigner, and researcher on the energetic influence of plants. He is the founder of  the Bioenergetic Landscapes Laboratory which studies how the energy produced by plants impacts human well-being.The use of “Bioenergetic Landscapes” is an innovative technique that utilizes plants and trees for human well-being based on the belief that the electromagnetic interaction between plants and humans impacts our well-being.

Marco Nieri Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

Marco Nieri
Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

Marco collaborated for over 15 years with Dr. Walter Kunnen of Antwerp (Belgium), who in 1960 founded “Archibo Biologica”, an important independent center of scientific research on the biosphere and the energetic influences on living organisms conveyed by natural and artificial electromagnetism, a point of reference for hundreds of doctors and naturopaths throughout Europe.

Marco and I have been communicating for several months, and I wanted to share some of what I have learned. Marco’s work with Bioenergetic Landscapes is fascinating, and as with all areas focused on how nature impacts human health, a strong base of empirical research is needed to provide a clearer understanding of the benefits that plants provide through the energy they produce.

Talk about your background and how you became interested in this.

Marco Nieri: In the 80s I worked as an interior designer and I used, for deep conviction, eco-friendly and biocompatible materials. At that time the market was not very prepared for this, but I was concerned to take this challenge very seriously to understand which were the elements that could affect our state of pleasure and well-being in the living environment. For this I attended dozens of courses in Italy and abroad on most various matters, from Feng Shui, to the influence of colors, shapes and the visible and invisible in our lives, as well as the chronobiology and geopathic fields.

In the early 90s, I met a Belgian independent researcher, Dr. Walter Kunnen, who had founded in 1960 in Antwerp “Archibo Biologica”, an independent institute of research about  the influence of Biosphere on health. His acquaintance was crucial for me and in the fifteen years that I worked with him, I understood the enormous importance of natural and artificial (unfortunately) electromagnetism over the existence of all living beings and how to measure the possible effects either on the environment or on the organism. All this through a non-conventional approach and measurement system, but a system able to provide accurate and useful biological information. With this knowledge I was able to devote myself to the study of bio-electromagnetism in vegetable field, my real passion, investigating the electromagnetic interactions between the biosphere, the trees and the human being.

Explain what a bioenergetic landscape is.  Have you studied gardens in areas outside of Italy?

Marco Nieri: Today we know that living organisms regulate all biological processes through their electromagnetic phenomena and therefore emanate measurable energy fields that constantly interact with the environment.

The deep analysis of this subject allowed me to develop an innovative discipline, called    “Bioenergetic Landscapes ” , which uses the natural electromagnetic fields to design and implement “Bioenergetic” parks and gardens with particular benefit for our body.

A group of tree huggers. Photo courtesy of Marco Nieri

A group of tree huggers.
Photo courtesy of Marco Nieri

This technique allows to check with specific measurements that each species or genus of plant emits weak electromagnetic fields of high biological affinity – with their own characteristics – which might influence differently the energetic status of our organs. Normally these electromagnetic fields can be used for our well-being just standing in contact with the plants, such as ” hugging ” a tree, as recommended by all the ancient cultures where this practice was suggested as therapeutic and revitalizing. Now we can understand which organs will benefit more and to what degree, and if necessary, we can recommend a plant rather than another.

A bioenergetic garden in Italy Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

A bioenergetic garden in Italy
Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

In order to use these energies on a larger scale we accomplish precise electromagnetic surveys on the ground where the park or the garden will be located, to detect the presence of specific points that are in correspondence of electromagnetic flows with given characteristics, in order to place the species of plants more healthy for us. This interaction between local electromagnetism and trees enables to amplify and spreading their emissions with a principle that can be defined “electromagnetic information” as the one generated by a radio program on his broadcast signal. This will favorably alter the bioenergetic quality of the biosphere around them, affecting areas extended up to a few tens of meters around.

To better illustrate the phenomenon, imagine that the natural electromagnetic field that has the characteristics we’re looking for, is a pure and clear mountain stream, and that you immerse in the middle of it a glass filled with ink of a certain color, that in our case is the tree with its particular energy: until the ink will come out from the glass, the water will flow downstream coloring itself for some distance, until returning transparent. Much like this happens in electromagnetic reality studied by the Bioenergetic Landscapes, with the only difference that the tree never wears out.

A bioenergetic park in Italy Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

A bioenergetic park in Italy
Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

Staying a few minutes in these spaces facilitates and nourish the most vital functions and well-being of our organs (immune system, circulatory, liver, thyroid, adrenal gland, etc. ..) and involves a more intense and effective recovery from stress as evidenced by the measurements performed with diagnostic tools as GDV  Bioelectrography (Gas Discharge Visualization) and with various vibration devices of electromagnetic and TRV infrasound analysis.

The study of the different energetic qualities of the plants has expanded over the years in various areal climates, from northern Europe to the forests of Costa Rica. The result has been to discover that wherever nature is extremely generous, and except for a few cases, it offers species and varieties of trees that I would call actually therapeutic  both for their phytotherapeutic and energetic components

Describe the antenna you use to measure the energy of plants and how it works.

Marco Nieri: There is actually no electronic device in the world that can perform sophisticated biological measurements in both environment and humans. This is why Dr. Walter Kunnen had to use for his investigations a biophysical tool, called “Lecher antenna”, created in the 50s by a German engineer, tool that Kunnen refined after. Up to now, it is the only one I know able to provide indications on the actual presence of the weak electromagnetic fields that have a biological influence, and that allows to measure the effects on plants and humans. It is a manual antenna, provided with a frequency selector and a sort of inner magnet. This allows us to tune on the frequencies known either in the natural electromagnetic fields or in the various organs of the body, by measuring their intensity on each of the two magnetic polarities. This detail is of utmost importance for our evaluations. The human body of the operator is then able to provide “biological energy” to the device without adding artificial components. For this reason we can consider it a tool of biological measurement.

Is the concept of bioenergetic landscapes becoming more accepted? Are healthcare facilities utilizing gardens?

Marco Nieri: The new vision offered by this technique from a decade ago has struggled to spread. Born out from a conventional scientific context, and innovative in its character, It was regarded by many as a new-age discipline or even as esoteric. Yet many people “feel” the way the things are. When I talk with people who often are in touch with nature as older farmers or forest rangers they show no surprise at all of the phenomenon that I describe. Today the application of this technique is much more recognized, and I been asked to design bioenergetic gardens in  health care settings, as in the Corte Roncati, one of the most important Italian Centres for technologic support to disability , or Bellaria Hospital, both in Bologna, or to the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, in a centre dedicated to the reception of sick children with cancer and their families. This, however, is the result of peculiar choices of  enlightened administrators. In Italy the use of green in healthcare facilities is still not developed and, even if it was customary until the ’30s, there is little awareness of the social, human and economic benefits that this can lead.

Describe several trees and plants and their impact on humans based on your studies.

Marco Nieri: The ability of plants to affect energy on the surrounding environment depends on the size of their trunk, which must have at least a couple of centimeters (a little less than half of an inch) in diameter. These properties can be found in trees and large shrubs essentially.

From these analyses emerges that some species can be defined extremely positive for health, so that they can be classified as therapeutic. Other are more or less healthy for certain organs, and others can be probably considered disturbing or harmful on some organs, such as Walnut or Cypress, inhibiting proper energetic functionality, especially on the cardiovascular, lymphatic and endocrine systems.

A scene from the "Smiling Forest" Photo courtesy of Marco Nieri

A scene from the “Smiling Forest”
Photo courtesy of Marco Nieri

Among those who have the best effects on the organism we find Oak, Beech, Maple , Oak, Holly, Magnolia, Willow, Cherry and many Mediterranean plants, such as Palm, the Pomegranate and the Olive tree. When we speak about healthy plants it means that there will be a deep supply of vital energy on all organs and functions that we can measure, (about thirty) with peaks of extreme benefit for some functionality in particular.

This depends – I think – by the particular chemical and physical constitution of the plant, as the salts and mineral substances creating its constitutional base, but also on the type of soil on which the plant grows and local environmental variables, which may determine to some extent differences from place to place .

It’s interesting to underline that over the centuries man has identified through experience and his sensitivity the positive value of many species of trees and some of them, in the course of time, have become the very symbol of vitality and object of worship. In the ancient times they ideally represented the powers and quality of the gods that were associated with them, and that in some cases elected them as their home.

In the case of  the Ash, for example, we know that in Greek mythology it was consecrated to Poseidon, God of the sea, springs and streams: the bioenergetic analysis identifies in this tree a strong therapeutic influence at the level of kidneys, bladder and lymphatic system, organs related to the correct flow of liquids in the body.

Have you researched how being near bodies of water impacts humans?

Marco Nieri: Our system of energetic measurement is applied for long since, in the analysis of the quality of the sites. Water is a fundamental element, electromagnetically able to influence the environment and therefore the life that it brings together. The essential condition is however that it is clean and in motion. With these conditions, a stream, a lake-spring, a simple activated water in a pool are able to improve the well-being of people, not just by introducing negative ions in the atmosphere or by creating a positive effect on the psyche, but also affecting on electromagnetic fields that pass through it. In Europe we have conducted studies on the Roman thermal baths left until nowadays, where the ancients used to spend a lot of time. These therapeutic waters were able to act even on the air and environments energy, producing well being in different forms.

If I wanted to create a simple bioenergetic garden in my backyard, what would you suggest I include?

Marco Nieri: To create a bioenergetic garden you need to perform several measurements, but I can tell you what is better not include in a limited space, to avoid disturbing effects in some way on some organs in the surrounding area: plants like Oleander, Lagerstroemia, Cherry Laurel, Yew, Acacia, Privet, the various species of Ficus, as well as Walnut and Cypress. On the other hand, fruit plants are excellent and there is no problem with the majority of trees: some of them as I explained above are great. Common ornamental plants of small size do not create any peculiar influence even if some, such as Rose, Rosemary and aromatic herbs are very healthy. In any case, even if some of the plants to be avoided are present, the situation can always be modified.

Do the people of Italy spend time in gardens/nature for restoration?

Marco Nieri: The habit to use nature as an approved factor of well-being is not yet common in Italy. The awareness of how much balance is possible to obtain from the green is very poor and is usually limited to the common folk knowledge, practices that relegate these moments to leisure activities and entertainment. Climate and favorable environmental conditions give Italy beautiful woods and forests, as well as beautiful gardens, but this still seems an immense heritage almost completely under-used. Our Mediterranean nature has always given us so much that we became culturally lazy on this matters, unlike for example the Northern European cultures. May be is because of the desire to fill the gap that Bioenergetic Landscapes was born in Italy.

What types of classes do you offer? Do you suggest certain techniques to help people connect with nature, and obtain the health benefits of plants?

Marco Nieri: Currently I hold in Italy two level courses to teach this technique. The courses are open to all: good will and passion are only requested. At first, I teach how to use properly the measuring instrument, the basic principles and vision of the Biosphere and living things from an energetic point of view. This requires a certain level of training. During these seminars the participants learn how to detect and distinguish between the electromagnetic properties of the trees and their effects on the organism, but also to measure the quality of the Biosphere in different places and all the principles for the application of Bioenergetic Landscapes. In particular, in the second level they deepens their knowledge going to measuring ancient sacred Etruscan or Roman sites, thermal springs and ancient trees, to better understand how the quality of life is closely connected with that of our environment.

Many information I give in my seminars can be found in my book ” Bioenergetic Landscape- How to design the Bioenergetic Therapeutic Garden ” published in Italian by Sistemi Editoriali (http://www.sistemieditoriali.it/catalogo/vse as101.htm).Marco Nieri's book cover

Now with some of my agronomists partners, we have proposed to some parks and natural reserves directors the creation of Bioenergetic therapeutic pathways in nature, where, guided experiences such as the “Forest Bathing ” can be associated to the Bioenergetic knowledge, so we could coin the term ” Bioenergetic Forest Bathing “. The interest has been very high and within a short time we should start with some interesting projects.

An example of existing Bioenergetic path is the “Smiling Forest”, a 2 miles path inside an Italian alpine forest. The work was commissioned two years ago by the Foundation of the famous Italian fashion brand “Ermenegildo Zegna”. Along the way there are 20 bioenergetic pause spots, with signs explaining the benefits produced by the plants on the organism in these areas.

In any case, walking in the woods is healthy also because where trees are plenty they create many beneficial areas, places that we cross almost continuously, remaining almost always immersed in these electromagnetic fields. And if we are not so sure that we are in a bioenergetic area, let’s embrace a beautiful tree