With limited light exposure and cold temperatures, it’s no surprise many of us feel despondent in winter. While the inclination is often to eat your feelings and cocoon indoors, one of the quickest ways to shift your mood is to get out into nature.
Numerous studies show that those who do have lower stress, blood pressure and heart rates, in addition to reduced neural activity in the part of the brain linked to mental illness. Japan leads the way in combating the blahs (winter and other) through a practice known as shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing.” It seems easy enough to take to the woods in the summer, yet it’s quite possible to reap the rewards in winter, too.
Canmore-based Forest Fix offers forest-bathing sessions for individuals and groups, led by certified forest therapy guide Ronna Schneberger, in a range of locations that includes Kananaskis Country; Banff, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in Banff National Park; and Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.
You’ll start by walking or snowshoeing to a secluded spot, where you’ll listen to the sounds and the silence of the forest, while inhaling the pleasant scent of evergreens. It’s a nice reset for body, mind and brain, and winter’s low sun presents magical details you might not normally notice.
This way of rejuvenating the mind and soothing your spirits may also offer the added benefit of actually enjoying yourself in the crisp mountain air — in the season you thought you dreaded, no less.