Sunday, July 30, 2017

Forest Bathing in Hopewell Valley

A view from my walk through the Ted Stiles Preserve.

As health care debates abound in the news, preventive medicine should be a focus as it is among the best ways to improve well-being and keep health care costs down.

What are you doing to stay healthy?  We know all the standard advice: Eat healthy. Exercise. Get plenty of sleep.   And to really improve longevity, find ways to reduce stress.

A lesser-known scientifically proven method to improve health is spending time outdoors.  The Japanese refer to the practice as Shinrin-yoku or “Forest bathing.”

Hopewell Valley is particularly conducive to forest bathing since we have an amazing selection of beautifully preserved forest trails from which to choose.

Studies published by Harvard Medical School and the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) confirm each others findings that forest environment exposure: 

  • Boosts immune system
  • Lowers blood pressure and pulse rates
  • Reduces stress hormone production and relieves stress
  • Increases focus for both young and old
  • Accelerates healing from surgical procedure or sickness
  • Improves mood and overall feelings of wellbeing
  • Increases stamina
  • Improves sleep

These results are contributing to the development of a research field dedicated to forest medicine and may be used as a strategy for preventive medicine. While much has been published about your brain on nature in the past, recent media is reporting the Japanese practice of forest bathing is exploding in the United States and an emerging industry of forest therapy consultants abound.

The key to forest bathing is simply to be mindful. Immersion in the forest will help clear your mind and open your senses to connect with nature.

Many people find the experience meditative and notice their breathing while walking through the forest tuning into the sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes to experience a very visceral reaction of senses to their surroundings.

Reducing stress improves mortality and lowers health care costs.  Incorporating forest therapy is an excellent stress-reduction therapy and couldn’t be easier in Hopewell Valley.

Many Valley dwellers have lived here for years and haven’t explored the bucolic opportunities right in our backyard. There is probably a forest preserve surprisingly close to your home.

Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) is a nonprofit land trust that is dedicated to preserving the Valley's character though open space and farmland preservation, and natural resource protection.

FoHVOS has partnered with landowners, government and other non-profit organizations to preserve and steward thousands of acres of natural forest in Hopewell Valley that are open to the public.

Download our free 36 page Guide to the Walking Trails in the Hopewell Valley (also found at

Find your own inspiration by exploring the best of the Valley. Visit Pole Farm at Mercer Meadows, Thompson Preserves in Hopewell, the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain, or the numerous other preserves our Valley has to share.