Just thinking about my upcoming vacation to Acadia National Park, I can feel my stress-induced canker sores melting away. It’s partly about the time off, and partly about being with family. Yet there’s something about being in a beautiful natural environment that is especially relaxing. And healing. In fact, the health benefits of nature are now sufficiently well understood that in some countries it is becoming common for physicians to prescribe “forest bathing.”
While extended periods in the woods provide even greater benefits – lower blood pressure, decreased levels of stress hormones, higher natural killer cell activity – even a brief stroll can be good for you. I am grateful to work on a campus that includes green space, including some beautiful woods that used to be part of the county sanitarium. (Woods that I hope will continue to be preserved in the face of regional development.) Some days I simply wander over during lunch for a 20-30 minute walk. It’s amazing how quickly one can forget you are in an urban area, in the midst of a major medical and research center. And how quickly you can forget the looming deadlines, or the upcoming budget discussions, or the last person who pissed you off.
OK, off to Maine. For those of you staying home, try the woods across the street.