Right away, the sign posted at the start of the Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast Nature Trails gives you an idea of why you are there, or at least why you should be there.
"I go to nature," reads the quote by John Burroughs, an American naturalist and nature essayist, "to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order."
According to a website of the same name, Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing."
It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine," the website explains.
"Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. "
Now their research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world."
Well, we're establishing a place where you can indulge in a little shinrin-yoku right here at Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast in Lawrenceville, Virginia.
Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses.
This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy,
the medicine of simply being in the forest.
A July 6 post on Science Daily touts the findings of a recent study by the University of East Anglia (UEA).
"Forest bathing is already really popular as a therapy in Japan," Science Daily explains, "with participants spending time in the forest either sitting or lying down, or just walking around. Our study shows that perhaps they have the right idea!"
"Much of the research from Japan suggests that phytoncides -- organic compounds with antibacterial properties -- released by trees could explain the health-boosting properties of forest bathing."
A co-author of the UEA study, Professor Andy Jones, said: "We often reach for medication when we're unwell but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact."
As strange as it may seem, it's even therapeutic for me to work on the trails. Clearing dead trees and branches and grooming the pathways is great exercise and having such a large area to explore my creativity is a wonderful way to clear my head of clutter and to focus on the amazing beauty around me. So, when someone tells you to "take a hike," maybe you should take their advice!
A June 7 blog on a hiking website called Montem noted that "scientists have even found that spending time in nature – even simply looking at nature – helps relieve stress and recharge your mind, body and soul."
"In fact," it clarifies, "looking at a natural setting helps reduce pain and accelerate the healing process. And if you hike with a friend or loved one, you’ll often find this helps alleviate your stress even more thoroughly."
I've been putting a lot of thought into the concept of stress reduction by providing a peaceful environment where guests are encouraged to commune with nature. In fact, it has been a priority here at Brunswick Mineral Springs to provide a place of comfort and healing for our guests for nearly two hundred years.
It's important to disconnect from stressful things and reconnect with the things that are most important: Family, friends and you!
Several of my prior posts noted the therapeutic benefits of mineral water and the centuries long history of Brunswick Mineral Springs being promoted as a health resort as far back as the Civil War. The property became famous for its "healing waters," which flows from a pair of mineral spring aquifers beneath the land. The heated indoor pool and the jacuzzi are filled with this mineral water. It flows from every faucet and shower head in every cabin and suite. We even flush our toilets with mineral water.
After spending a couple of days here at Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast -- showering, bathing, swimming in and drinking our mineral water, guests have told us how soft their skin feels or how silky and shiny their hair is or how the aches and pains that have plagued them for years have suddenly gone away.
Now the nature trails, which were once an ancillary part of the 27-acre property, are becoming an integral and quite popular part of the estate's growing number of healing options. The paths are cut wide through the forest to make them easy to navigate, and low branches are trimmed high so you don't have to limbo.
There are two small creeks. The larger of the two marks the back property line and the smaller of the two defines the northern border. I keep them cleared of the branches that are always falling from the trees, and the excess of leaves are removed now and then to keep the water flowing. The sounds of the water varies as you walk beside the creeks. Trickles slip into rushing sounds, which then give way to waterfalls. Add the sound of the wind as is whispers through the tall trees and the sensation is that washes over you is nothing less than seductive. It makes you want to close your eyes and listen to everything. The water. The wind. The bird song.
There is a wonderful seating area near one of the more active waterfalls, found about halfway along the larger of the two creeks. A sign, hung upon a tree between two reclined Adirondack chairs, bids you to "Rest."
There are directional signs and motivational signs. Both are there to offer guidance. Guests are encouraged to submit their own favorite quotes. It can be one from someone else or one of your own. The ones that are selected will be added to the trails.
The trails are designed to make you slow down and even to stop now and then to really look at and to contemplate some of the things they may never have given thought to before. On one tree, which grows across from the larger of the two streams, there is a quote from Albert Einstein: "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." Below the sign, on a table made of the forest in which it sits, will be something beautiful. It's meant to make you curious, to pull you over and to encourage to stop and to see the incredible beauty and the humbling simplicity of nature.
After a rather vicious storm, I walked the trails and found where a tree had snapped in half and the top portion fell over to gouge into the ground. It formed a lovely arch over the path so, rather than cut it down and use it to keep the pool heated, my brother and dad trimmed the excess branches to make a wonderful new nature trail feature.
We even made a table top on one of the branches out of a slice of another tree. So, what initially looked like an obstacle turned out to be a wonderful opportunity.
Oh, the things nature can teach you if you just pay closer attention.
As for the healing practice of Shinrin-yoku:
The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.
"We have always known this intuitively," the website explains. "But in the past several decades there
have been many scientific studies that are demonstrating the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. (some of this research is available here). For example, many trees give off organic compounds that support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system's way of fighting cancer."
The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:
Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells.
Reduced blood pressure
Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
Increased energy level
Just as impressive are the results they say people are experiencing as they make this part of our regular practice:
Deeper and clearer intuition
Increased flow of energy
Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
Increased flow of eros/life force
Deepening of friendships
Overall increase in sense of happiness
As for the research conducted at the University of East Anglia, "the research team hope that their findings will prompt doctors and other healthcare professionals to recommend that patients spend more time in greenspace and natural areas."
In the meantime, book some time here at Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast. We'll help you get your healing on.