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“In the early 1940s, while embroiled in the Second World War, the government of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King faced a PR problem back home: injured soldiers were being sent to a Toronto cash-register factory that had been hastily converted to house the wounded. Torch, a newspaper for veterans, heaped scorn on what it called the “chief orthopaedic military hospital in Canada.” It described “ramshackle, inflammable additions” and observed that the vets lacked adequate light or recreational areas. The Canadian government had asked the City of Toronto for land to erect a new facility. Milton Gregg, minister of veterans’ affairs, called for “rural surroundings (that) can have a beneficial effect upon morale.” In 1948, Mackenzie King opened Sunnybrook Hospital, then the largest hospital in Canada, on a forested plateau north of downtown. Sunnybrook’s principal architect, Hugh L. Allward, noted that “a clear-running stream adds charm to a broad valley available to patients and their friends.” The founders of Sunnybrook recognized something ancient and intuitive: the healing power of forests.
Seventy years on, a quest for bigger and better buildings (and more parking) has driven Sunnybrook’s patients and staff further and further from nature. But, even as Sunnybrook pushes green space to its margins, researchers elsewhere have proven the value of therapeutic landscapes. Clinical trials show that time spent in the forest can boost white blood cells, which can attack tumours, improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and lift depression. The Japanese call this shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. In Canada, during a typical forest bath, participants stroll through groves and sometimes lean against trees. They feel rocks and smell soil. They lie down on carpets of pine needles. It sounds like a hippie fad—but it might also be a simple, low-cost way to address some of the challenges facing our health care system.
Although Western medicine has succeeded in limiting communicable diseases and extending life expectancy, increasing rates of depression and other mental illnesses suggest that, in the developed world, well-being is on the decline. In Canada, three in five people over twenty now live with chronic, noncommunicable diseases. As hospitals overflow and “hallway medicine” persists, contact with nature may be one of our oldest and least-appreciated treatments.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."
"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."
"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."
"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."
"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."
"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."
"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."
"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."
"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."
"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."
"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."
"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."