– I have noticed that I am happiest when I feel like one with nature. When I look at the precise silhouette of mountains, run in the forest, listen to the rhythm of waves and look into the infinite vastness of the ocean or listen to the crackle of a campfire. That is when I realise that I am part of the universe, of the same origin; complete and powerful, says Kärkkäinen, senior piano pedagog at TAMK.
The nature in Lapland attracts ever growing numbers of people who want to enjoy its silence and timeless feel. Today, science also acknowledges the positive effects forests have on human wellbeing. Research shows that trees use their roots to take care of each other and support weaker individuals. Extraordinary things happen in the forest that we still do not know enough about but that we can sense.
– There is caring within nature as well as between nature and people. Energy and regeneration, new and creative ideas are things that I still draw from nature to my art, Kärkkäinen explains.
The healing power of silence
Those suffering from noise and stress can find refuge in forests. More than 70 per cent of Finland´s surface area is forest, with another 10 per cent consisting of water systems. It is no wonder that enjoying nature is such a popular pastime in Finland and quite special on a global scale.
Extraordinary things happen in the forest that we still do not know enough about but that we can sense.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution and exposure to noise are the biggest environmental problems globally for human health. The Natural Resources Institute Finland has studied the significance of forests as a producer of wellbeing. Studies show that forests have a great therapeutic effect on people as a mental, cultural and experiential environment.
In principle, every Finn has access to a silent forest and a strip of shore where one can stay in peace. Foreigners have also noticed this. Tourists seek a counterbalance to their everyday life in Finnish nature destinations. They want peace, quiet and experiences from nature and natural beauty.
Tourists seek a counterbalance to their everyday life in Finnish nature destinations. They want peace, quiet and experiences from nature and natural beauty.”
A stressed person recovers quickly in nature
Professor Liisa Tyrväinen’s research group in the Natural Resources Institute Finland studied how quickly a nature environment, and particularly the forest, help in the recovery from stress. The tests were done with heart rate monitors and blood pressure meters.
– The health benefits of a green environment are evident. A stressed person recovers quickly in nature. Recovery in a green zone is apparent after just 15 minutes!
When people are taken into the forest, a decrease in blood pressure and pulse, a reduction in muscular tension and an increase in the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system are clearly observed in the measurement results.
The parasympathetic nervous system is most active in rest. From the effect of a parasympathetic impulse, the heart rate slows down and respiratory frequency reduces.
TEXT: URSULA HELSKY-LEHTOLA | PHOTO: HEINI KÄRKKÄINEN, ILLUSTRATION: IRIKUL
– Being in the forest has a similar effect on the organs as yoga or meditation. The Finnish forest is a retreat: unbuilt, beautiful scenery, and silence.
Professor Tyrväinen emphasises the aesthetics and beauty of nature. Apart from the stress-reducing element, people also feel much more creative after being in the forest.