The country’s first forest healing centre based on the concept of making people healthy by bringing them into direct contact with nature was opened to the public on Sunday at Kalika near Ranikhet, an official said. Signboards on either side of its slopey entrance advise visitors to hug trees, walk barefoot on the grass, lie on their back and gaze at the swaying trees or the ever changing sky above to soothe their senses. Cute little wooden structures called tree platforms have been built for the purpose of providing visitors a perfectly natural ambience to meditate.
Drawing inspiration from the Japanese technique of forest bathing (shinrin – yoku), the healing centre has been developed by the research wing of Uttarakhand Forest Department after a detailed study of the revitalizing impact of forests on human health, Chief Conservator of Forest Sanjiv Chaturvedi said.
Spread over an area of around 13 acres, the centre was inaugurated by noted environmentalist from Ranikhet Joginder Bisht.
The visitors can indulge in several activities at the centre including forest walking, tree hugging, forest meditation and sky gazing.
It has been found that because of typical molecular vibration patterns of trees, tree hugging has a very beneficial impact on increasing the level of feel good hormones in the body like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, Chaturvedi said.
The healing centre has been established in a pine dominated forest as it has been found in various studies that conifers like pine trees emit certain oil compounds to safeguard themselves from various microbes & pathogens, which are called phytoncides, he said.
It has been found in various researches that these compounds help to multiply natural killer cells in our blood, which help in fighting infections and cancerous growth and enhance overall immunity, he said. It has also been found in various researches that these compounds have a very positive impact on decreasing level of stress hormones and have a relaxing effect, he added.
The forest healing centre maintains a register in which visitors can share their experiences.
The signboards also advise visitors to leave behind phones, cameras or any other distractions to feel the sensations a direct contact with nature sends to the brain, Chaturvedi said.