Breathing the Forest

by: Doug Alderson, Outdoor & Nature Expert

Breathing The Forest

The Tallahassee area is blessed with numerous public forests. These areas can be found in parks, greenways, state and national forests or wildlife refuges. Some are within easy reach of office buildings and I feel fortunate that one such forest plot is near the northwest side of town, where I often work. A loop footpath through this area is known as the Hidden Ponds Trail and it is short enough for a perfect fifteen-minute break.

Some of the forest hardwoods along the Hidden Pond Trail are reaching maturity, and wild azaleas and other wildflowers are in full bloom during spring. The shorelines of two borrow pits dug for Interstate 10 construction are now nicely vegetated and the ponds are home to beavers, water snakes and visiting wading birds and waterfowl. Despite the nearby interstate, to amble through the forest is to feel refreshed and grounded, allowing me to return to work feeling more focused and creative as a result. Many researchers label it forest therapy and Shinto and Buddhist traditions call it forest bathing. I feel that I breathe better in a forest setting, so I like to think of a forest walk as "breathing the forest."

Native Americans have long known that forests can heal and energize. Muscogee Indians call trees "tall standing brothers," and some Muscogee would hang a covered bucket of water in a tree for a day to purify it. Additionally, scientific research has shown that forest therapy has measureable health benefits. Look it up on the Internet and see for yourself. Stress is reduced, blood pressure drops, moods lighten, and immunity is strengthened. Even children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder have experienced improved concentration after a 20-minute walk in a city park compared to a 20-minute walk in more developed settings. Some Japanese companies are including forest therapy in employee health care benefits. Perhaps one day we can reduce health insurance premiums if we take daily forest walks, and even hug trees. Tree hugging may one day be cost effective!

To find a park near your home and/or office in Tallahassee-Leon County, check out this interactive map: http://imsinter.leoncountyfl.gov/website/Parks_SDE/viewer.htm. You might be surprised at how many small and large parks we have around our city of trees, and more trails connecting different parks are being developed. Moral of the story: you should include forest therapy as part of your daily routine!

Doug Alderson. Outdoor & Nature Expert from Tallahassee, FL Author:

Doug Alderson

Outdoor & Nature Expert

Bio:

Doug Alderson is the author of several books, including Waters Less Traveled: Exploring Florida's Big Bend Coast (University Press of Florida 2005), The Vision Keepers: Walking for Native Americans and the Earth (Quest Books 2007), New Dawn for the Kissimmee River: Orlando to Okeechobee by Kayak (University Press of Florida, 2009), Encounters with Florida's Endangered Wildlife (University Press of Florida, 2010), and his newest book, Wild Florida Waters: Exploring the Sunshine State by Kayak and Canoe (Earthways Press, 2011). Additionally, his articles and photographs have been featured in magazines such as Sea Kayaker, Coast and Kayak, Wildlife Conservation, American Forests, Sierra, Mother Earth News and Shaman's Drum. He has won several state and national awards for his books and magazine features. Doug also works as the paddling trails coordinator for the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails.

Looking for more?