March Break is here. Have all your friends headed south for some de-stressing and re-warming? Same here. But, while everyone I know is about to hoist a margarita on a beach somewhere, I’ve got my own instant mood-alteration strategy. I’m going to take a cue from the Japanese and go on a shinrin-yoku–a forest bathing trip. The beauty of forest bathing is that you can do it anywhere there are trees, including urban parks. And there’s a surprising pay-off besides avoiding line-ups at the airport and maxing out your credit limit. Research has proven that forest bathing can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A day-long walk in the woods can even help improve immune functioning. Phytoncides–natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees–have been shown to have a direct correlation to improvements in immune functioning and even fighting cancer.
This weekend Canada’s largest flower and garden festival will open with more than 300 trees on display, according to gardening guru Mark Cullen. They’ve been forced into leaf and flower for a sight-and-smell preview of spring. I can’t wait to meet Canada’s newest maple tree, Regal Petticoat Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus spaethii). I might not get a lungful of health-boosting antimicrobial compounds at Canada Blooms. Many plants give off phytoncides, including garlic, but pine is your best bet in the tree department. But walking into this explosion of flowers and young trees in the middle of a miserably cold March is another great escape. Margaritas optional.