Studies show that apart from all the usual woes—work, relationships, money, time—civilized life comes at a price and brings with it, its own trail of woes.
Disconnection from nature is bad for our mental health, but there was no name for this particular malaise until 2000, when Australian sustainability professor Glenn Albrecht coined the term psychoterratica.
Julia Plevin, author of the upcoming book The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing, to be published in March by Random House, used to suffer from psychoterratica. As a design student in New York, Plevin recognized that all the gray buildings and dearth of greenery, was making her depressed and anxious. She focused her studies on psychoterratica and began examining the connection between space, nature, health, and design. And she found one! And a simple remedy too!
As Plevin puts it, we just need to “rewild” regularly, spending time outside, especially among trees! So, walking in the woods and cultivating a connection with nature was her medicine, and sharing this therapy became her mission.
Pelvin shared her findings about the tonic of the wilderness and thanks to her, Forest bathing, one of humanity’s oldest pastimes, is now experiencing a sudden resurgence in popularity.
Wood wandering as therapy began in Japan in 1982, when the government introduced the concept of shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing.” Intuitively, the Japanese understood that the woods do people good, while distance from nature makes us sick.
Soon, Japanese researchers tried to quantify this intuition, studying the healing effect of trees. They discovered that forest bathing not only feels good but it is also healing, physically, because it exposes people to the healthy essential oils that trees release, called phytoncides. These antimicrobial oils protect trees from germs and have a host of human health benefits, including boosting mood and immune system function; reducing blood pressure, heart rate, stress, anxiety, and confusion; improving sleep and creativity; and possibly fighting cancer and depression. A number of serious studies and researches corroborated the positive effects of the woods and pioneering tree medicine.
Finland now advertises itself to tourists as a forest bathing destination. There are forest therapy guide and certification programs in the US, UK, and Canada, and there’s a Global Institute for Forest Therapy. Around the world, groups like Plevin’s forest bathing club, official and unofficial, are treating their psychoterratica with a dose of nature.
Apart from the healing properties of trees, research has also proved water’s curative properties. Studies have shown that a trip to the ocean, sitting by a river and a shower at home prove soothing. As is walking barefoot and earthing—which is basically just connecting to the ground.
Even just digging your fingers in the soil of a potted plant can improve your mood and boost your immune system. It turns out that, like trees, Soil also has a microbiome and the more we contact it and allow it to infiltrate our systems, the better our chances of maintaining physical and mental wellness.
We have both a physical and psychological need to be in nature, as new research increasingly reveals, and we get sick when we’re disconnected from it. Luckily, the prescription for what ails us turns out to be a simple fix that is inexpensive and has no negative side effects.
And Soulitude offers opportunities aplenty to reconnect with Nature. From walks and hikes in hilly terrains through heavily wooded areas exploring the local flora and fauna of the region and identifying trees on the way, to spending a day in Mahesh Khan or Kuleti, to bathe in the company of the evergreen trees of the reserved forests, you can be in close and deep contact with Nature. You could also spend a day in the company of the river, allowing it to soothe your cares and creases away. Or you could decide to roll up your sleeves and get your hands to connect with Mother Earth and spend a day at the farm, digging, sowing, weeding and plucking a fruit or vegetable of your choice to pickle with our staff to take back home.