Michelle was inspired by her father, Dr. Lee Olson, who was a plant biochemist and encouraged her to appreciate and respect all of nature (weeds, bugs and all!) Taking long bike rides through the woods, gardening and harvesting vegetables and planting wildflowers are some of the early lessons Michelle learned from her dad and embraced as she got older.
Fast forward, working in long-term care communities for over two decades, Michelle recognized the disconnection between older people and the natural world and was troubled at environmental design which discouraged people living in these settings from experiencing fresh air, sunlight and seasonal changes each day. This detachment and segregation from outdoor space and others is even more apparent when people are living with dementia. Research demonstrates the numerous mind and body health benefits of being in natural spaces. It is the goal of Evergreen Minds to re-establish and celebrate these important relationships between self, nature and others. Being outdoors, expressing ourselves creatively, with pure acceptance is our birthright.
What is Forest Bathing?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors and the concentration of air pollutants can be 2 to 5 times higher than out in nature! Shinrin-yoku or ‘Forest Bathing’ is the evidenced-based practice of spending time in the woods.
Aside from the positive physical and emotional experiences of the soothing sights and sounds of the forest, being outdoors is a natural way to decrease blood pressure…and we can thank the aromatic organic chemicals called phytoncides which are released from plants and trees. Here are just some of the physiological health benefits of being in nature!
- Decreases inflammation
- Increases immune system
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Reduces stress, depression and anxiety
- Improves sleep
- Lowers blood sugar
- Boosts parasympathetic nervous system (which makes us feel so good!)
What is important to recognize is that the health benefits for humans are not the sole focus of forest therapy. The wellness of humans is interconnected with the wellness of the more-than-human world–this reciprocal and relational connection acknowledges that we ARE nature. Evergreen Minds is on a mission to help create a culture that connects people with natural spaces and de-medicalize and de-stigmatize the accepted status-quo in healthcare for people living with dementia.