Stronger and smarter after lockdown – how hunkering down in the forest paid off

While social distancing and working remotely are tough, at least they give us more flexibility to structure our days. Spending time in the forest proved to be a perfect way to emerge from Covid-19 limitations rejuvenated.

I’m in the city-center of Helsinki. From the window, I can see a street, forest and the sea. Although I’m self-quarantining after a quick trip to London, I just took a 3-mile walk around Kaisaniemi Bay after an online yoga session.

I live in Washington, DC. I, however, made the same call as about 7 000 other people from around the world when the coronavirus abruptly shut us out of our offices and made us work remotely. I headed to Finland. And, to a large extent, I headed to the forest since 75 per cent of Finland’s land area is covered in forest.

Spending time in the forest has felt so wonderful that I got intrigued. Is this surge of joy just due to the change of pace and circumstances? Or does the forest have something to do with it?

It quite possibly does, as it turns out. A brand-new study shows that “the forest will positively contribute to one’s psychological, physiological and social well-being and health.”

The good news doesn’t stop there. Marja Roslund, who is preparing a doctoral thesis on the topic, lists these particular benefits of the forest:

1. forest microbiota drives effective functioning of our immune system 2. our microbiota regulates vital functions such as metabolism, hormones, self-esteem and mood and protects us from harmful bacteria and cancer 3. lowers heartrate, blood pressure and stress, and improves mental health through neurotransmission pathways 4. improves concentration, academic performance, and the ability to perform mentally challenging tasks 5. enhances physical activity, sensory function, well-being, motivation and nature-awareness 6. breaks up harmful substances (including polyaromatic hydrocarbon) from traffic and industry 7. absorbs stressful noise

All of this data is backed by scientific references to the sources and studies. How amazing is that!

My dialogue with Ms. Roslund and research into her and her colleagues’ work has given me quite a kick to not only choose wisely the place where I personally want to hunker down, but to also pass on the word to others.

Go to the forest and inhale it. It gives clarity. With all the change ahead of us, we are going to need it.

Kristiina Helenius

Nordic West USA is the North-American cooperation partner of the Finnish Forest Association and Tapio.

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