HealthSpan Wellness

By Tyler Shippel, ND CISSN


As respiratory illnesses are in the air and more people seem to be feeling under the weather, it may seem like a good idea to hunker down inside and wait out the winter. Remembering the wise words of our elders, “don’t stay out in the cold as you’ll come down with something”, you’re probably getting ready for hibernation.  Uber Eats promos and reality tv may get us through, right? Well, we may have the wrong idea.

I took a complementary medicine course in university that explored the lifestyle techniques other nations used to benefit their health. We learned about Eastern countries and their incredible collection of knowledge through thousands of years of documenting medical and spiritual practices. It is important to understand how young Western medicine really is, and many of us do not take advantage of the therapies and lifestyles developed by these nations to preserve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

One example we learned of is a Japanese practice called Shinrin Yoku. It directly translates to “forest bathing”. It is like hiking; however, the intention is to fully immerse yourself in the experience, and be sure to take in the sounds, smells, and beauty that forests can offer. Often, people will carry, and spray essential oils extracted from the plants in the area to enhance the experience.

We often think of Japan as a wealthy urban nation, but it is in fact the second most forested nation in the world, just behind Finland. It is also considered one of the healthiest nations, proudly having the world’s highest life expectancy. Seeing a connection here? A collection of studies has confirmed the benefits of exposure to a forest setting due to the natural compounds released by trees. The compounds we breathe in increase infection fighting cells called natural killer cells to help strengthen our initial immune response to bugs we may encounter in our day to day lives. Cool, right? Being in Halton Hills, we have so many options to explore our natural forest settings just minutes from our own backyards. Let’s be sure to continue to get out and explore our conservation areas, Bruce Trail and other natural setting during the fall and winter months to take advantage of this immune supporting activity!