Soul Sculpting Project: Head to the Hills, or the Park, or the Forest, or the Beach, or the Fields or …
You have been invited to participate in a Psychology Research study. The research project has moved beyond rats and mice and now you are the subject.
Today is the day. You put on your walking shoes and drive to the study site.
You begin by filling out a questionnaire about your mood, stress level, and other psychological measures.
Researchers take your cortisol level and give you a brain scan to measure the blood flow in various brain regions.
Then you hook up to equipment that will measure heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood pressure.
The participants are divided into two groups.
Group One will walk in a busy urban center.
Group Two will walk in a large forested park.
You are assigned to group two: the forest walk.
The urban center walkers take off to a high traffic area of the city and you head to the nearby large park.
You enter the park and begin your walk down a smooth dirt trail. You are surrounded by tall trees, bushes, grasses and a few flowering plants. The air is cool and fresh. Birds sing high in the trees and occasional squirrels race by.
After 90 minutes you return to the study site.
You take off the equipment that measured your heart and blood pressure. You take another cortisol test and another brain scan.
You fill out another questionnaire about your mood, stress level, and other psychological measures.
You return to your car and drive home wondering what the results of the study will show.
A few weeks later the results are released and the findings are consistent with other studies that have been done around the world.
The following 5 findings applied to the forest/nature walkers and not to the urban center walkers.
- Had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress).
- Had lower cortisol. (A hormone associated with negative stress.)
- Reported better moods and less anxiety.
- Showed decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortexa. (A part of the brain tied to depressive rumination.)
- Reported less mental beating-themselves-up.
To learn more see the work of: Stanford’s Greg Bratman and colleagues, and Yoshifumi Miyazaki at Chiba University, Japan
- In Japan the forest service is taking this research seriously, as a public health benefit. Japan now has 48 Forest Therapy Trails.
- In Finland public health officials now recommend that citizens get 5 hours a month, minimum, in the woods, in order to stave off depression.
Jesus’s Nature Walks
Jesus had a demanding schedule; “multitudes followed Him” to hear Him teach and to be healed.
In the midst of all this popularity, and meaningful work, Jesus would frequently “withdraw to the wilderness” to talk with God. (Luke 5:15-16)
It seems to me that Jesus’s favorite prayer practice to was to head-off to some place in nature where He could talk with God alone. (Mark 1:35, 6:46, Luke 5: 16, 6:12, 9:28.)
Jesus often: “went into the hills to pray”( Mark 6:46.)
Soul Sculpting Project: Head to the Hills, or the Park, or the Forest, or the Beach or the Fields or …
- Schedule time this week (even today) to:
find some nature and take a walk with God.
This is my go-to spiritual practice. After a walk with God in nature I usually feel like I have my head on straighter.
I invite you to give this project a try and see how it fits you. Cuthbert’ s Trail to Holy Island, Scotland