For as long as there’s been urban-induced stress, there’s been a sure-fire remedy: nature.
Every culture has its own language for the calming power of immersing yourself in the wilderness, climbing atop a mountain, walking along a beach. In the 1980s, the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (‘forest bathing’) emerged and revealed the incredible physical and mental benefits of spending time in green spaces – ranging from decreased blood pressure to disease prevention. It’s even been found that breathing in phytoncide, a chemical that comes from trees and plants, can improve your immune system. In many Māori traditions, a connection to natural landscapes features prominently. People can introduce themselves with a pepeha – a structured greeting that includes who they are, where they’re from, and which land they belong to. At the recent AIA Vitality Wellbeing Retreat in Queenstown, AIA Vitality ambassador Ian Jones shared his pepeha with attendees before leading them on a walk through the landscape. He also gifted retreat-goers with a pounamu (greenstone) dipped in fast-flowing river water – symbolising a deep connection with the land.
Then there are the obvious benefits that come from lacing up your walking shoes, strapping on your Garmin smartwatch, and gathering up those steps in the great outdoors. The hardest part, usually, is finding the time. Don’t sweat it, though – we’ve come up with seven easy options for a quick urban retreat, and none require straying too far (if at all) from Australia’s main centres. All you need to do is pack the trail mix and hope it doesn’t rain.