Forests have a central part in the national culture of Finland. Over 80 % of the surface area of Finland is forest, so the Finns have always lived in close interaction with forest surroundings. Forests have traditionally offered nutrition, medicine, shelter and materials for construction. However, for us Finns, the importance of forests has never been limited only to practical benefits. In fact, Finnish people have always had a special connection with forests: they have been considered as soothing, sometimes even spiritual places, bearing mystical healing powers and ancient wisdom.
Today Finns still go to the forest intentionally to relax and reset as well as to acquire healthy nutrition. Forests are considered to have many kinds of healing effects which modern-day research has also confirmed. Forest is both a revitalizing environment to be in, as well as the source of many healing ingredients.
Forest has a profound effect on mental wellbeing
People used to live in the immediate vicinity of nature and in sync with its cycles. Nowadays the majority of us live in constructed and busy urban environments. However, humans still have the natural need to get back in nature and seek a quieter environment, such as the forest. In our fast-paced lifestyle full of stimuli, a forest offers a place where time seems to stand still and the mind and the body just unwind without any particular conscious effort.
Research has shown that spending time outdoors in a forest is one of the most effective ways to alleviate stress – and just 20 minutes of forest time can have that effect. Wandering in a forest lowers the heart rate and decreases blood pressure as well as the stress hormone cortisol. It can also affect heart rate variability (HRV) which is an essential indicator in measuring stress levels.
Spending time in a forest also improves the mood, which is why it is a good way to alleviate symptoms of depression. Though a walk in the forest doesn't take away any worries in your life, you might find a new perspective on them afterwards.
The mind rests among the colors of autumn.
Taking a break from the sense stimuli in the quietness of the forest really soothes and recharges the mind. It is possible to be both relaxed and alert in a forest, as the mind automatically focuses on sensing the surroundings. This kind of state of mind also feeds creativity – a forest walk can help to spark up new ideas or solutions to persistent problems. Being in a forest also activates cognitive function which is why the mind is more open and adaptive to learning in the forest.
Forest methods for the body and the mind
As the many health effects of spending time in a forest have become more explicit through research, different kinds of forest methods focused on holistic wellbeing have also begun to be developed. People seek aesthetic, invigorating and soothing experiences from the forest, which these methods can strengthen. Here’s three of them:
- Forest bathing refers to conscious being in the forest. Forest bathing originates from Japan and also goes by the name shinrin-yoku. Forest bathing utilizes mindfulness exercises which guide you to calmly take in the forest through all your senses: the views, scents, sounds, touch sensations and flavors. Forest bathing improves the connection with ourselves and with nature.
- The Forest Mind method combines the health effects of nature with various exercises that improve mindfulness, mental skills and relaxation. The method utilizes psychology, therapy and coaching in a natural setting.
- The Forest Immersion Method also combines mindfulness, meditation, chi kung and body awareness techniques in a forest setting. The method is a powerful way to deepen presence and relationship with nature as well as to internally reset from stress.
The healing treasures of the Finnish forest
Forests also provide a diverse setting for freetime activities. In Finland, the concept of everyman’s right ensures that anyone can roam freely in nature and enjoy nature’s gifts regardless of who owns the land. Picking berries and mushrooms is a popular hobby for us Finns, no matter the age. Berry and mushroom picking is in fact an excellent form of low-intensity exercising. Walking in a forest provides a different kind of stimulus to the muscles than walking on asphalt. The varied terrain improves balance and coordination and strengthens the muscles in a diverse way. In addition, while hunting for your favorite treasures, you can end up getting many kilometers under your belt without even noticing it.
Berries and mushrooms provide precious nutrients
The most common berries found in the Finnish forests are bilberries and lingonberries. They are not only delicious and versatile to use, but also packed with precious nutrients, such as vitamins, antioxidants, omega fatty acids and fiber. Finnish forest berries are unique in their nutritional value and health benefits. This is because in Finland, berries go through an intensive growing period during the short yet light summers which makes them grow exceptionally rich in nutrients. At Arctic Pure, we offer many well-preserving berry products made from nutritious Finnish forest berries.
Bilberries are the Finns' favorite berries.
Mushrooms are also another favorite forest food for the Finns. The most common and beloved Finnish forest mushrooms include chanterelle, funnel chanterelle, black trumpet and porcini. These provide wonderful culinary experiences, not to mention plenty of good nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals. At Arctic Pure, you can also get a taste of these mushrooms.
Spruce resin heals skin ailments
Another healing gift of the Finnish forest is provided by spruce trees. Spruce trees thrive in cold and moist environments so our Northern nature provides an excellent habitat for them. Different parts of the spruce have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects, resin being one of these.
Spruce resin protects damaged coniferous trees from pests, bacteria and fungi. Resin also has the same effect on the skin and its healing effects on wounds, infections and rashes has been known in traditional folk medicine for centuries. Spruce resin prevents inflammation and the growth of bacteria on the skin. The healing properties of spruce resin have also been confirmed by modern-day research, making this classic remedy of the ancient folks one of the most interesting natural products of our time.
Havuka makes spruce resin balms based on traditional folk healing recipes. The balms can be used for the treatment of small wounds, dry skin, rash, insect bites and blisters as well as for relieving flu symptoms.
Forest microbes boost the immune system with a patented forest extract
Spending time in a forest also has a bit more surprising benefits. The forest soil has microbes that are beneficial for human health. Since people living in urban environments tend to spend less time in nature than what people did in the olden days, people are today also less exposed to nature's good microbes which help to maintain our health. This is considered to be a significant reason for why various immune-mediated diseases and skin problems have increased over the past years.
The forest soil is a rich source of good microbes.
Finnish universities have developed an innovative solution to this: the Reconnecting Nature™ forest extract. Reconnecting Nature™ contains forest microbes which help to support the microbiome of the body when applied on the skin. The Finnish brands such as Luonkos utilize the Reconnecting Nature™ forest extract in their unique skincare products. These products help to restore the lost connection with the forest and to reinforce the skin’s immune system. Consequently, this also helps to maintain the immunity and balance of the whole body. The healing powers of the Finnish forest can truly be felt on your skin.
Looking for more forest inspiration? Check out these Finnish brands:
- Moi Forest makes skincare products that combine the innovative Reconnecting Nature™ forest extract with organic natural ingredients. The products are scientifically proven to support the body’s microbiome when applied to skin. Moi Forest gives a healing forest bath for your skin.
- Metsä/Skogen makes delicacies and cosmetics inspired by Finnish forests. The Metsä/Skogen teas, spices and marmalades are full of forest flavors such as spruce, nettle and berries. The Metsä/Skogen cosmetics, candles and essential oils invite you to enjoy the invigorating and soothing energy of Finnish forests.
- Hetkinen is a natural cosmetics and lifestyle brand inspired by the healing effects of trees. You can find luxurious body butters, lip balms and fragrances as well as candles and scent diffusers from the Hetkinen selection. The products are packed in lovely antibacterial jars made of Finnish pine.