As some lucky Omanis head for the lush serenity of Salalah for khareef, Martina Mason examines the health benefits of a verdant environment.
A walk in the woods has always been a means of escape from the modern strains of life.
And now even conservationists say the Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’, or shinrin-yoku, is ideal for reducing levels of stress.
Of course, Oman is not a nation over-endowed with green spaces despite its many wondrous physical assets.
However, the khareef season will see many of us heading down to Salalah to revel in its pleasant pastures.
Simply put, the colour green is associated with nature and with being clean, fresh, and ultimately easy on the eye.
Experts at the American Psychological Association have done research that explains the mental and physical boost we get from all things green.
It’s a process that governs how we design our homes and outdoor spaces, and where we take our holidays.
Of course, lovers of nature always seem to be healthier, happy, and easier to deal with.
And a recent study by the University of Derby in the UK has confirmed it.
Research recently identified contact, emotion, compassion, and engagement with natural beauty as ways that help people to feel closer to nature.
The legendary British naturalist Sir David Attenborough is in no doubt about the links of mental health and nature.
He says: “There is very strong evidence that people who spend time with the natural world benefit mentally to an extraordinary degree.
“Relaxing and looking at things that are true and important and have been like that before we arrived, and for long after we have gone; it’s clinically now been demonstrated that doing that actually…helps to bring people happiness, confidence, and relaxation; all very important things in this modern world in which we live.”
The Japanese practice of taking woodland walks should be prescribed as a way of relieving stress, conservationists at the UK’s Woodland Trust are now saying.
Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, requires walkers to breathe deeply and open all their senses to the environment.
It has been estimated that about five million Japanese do, and revive both their bodies and minds as a result.
So maybe it’s something we can try and emulate if we’re lucky enough to head down to Salalah this summer.
As we all know, Salalah is one of the very few places in the GCC region that has a monsoon season, which runs from July to September.
During that time, its normally brown landscape and surroundings evolve into a verdant and lush environment that offer a cool respite from summer in the city.
No wonder we all want to go there at this time of year!
And for those lucky enough to do so, there’s no question any trip should be beneficial to all its lucky visitors.
But why? Well, simply because, as Sir David says, of the exposure to all things green.
In Salalah, we can enjoy Wadi Darbat, which at this time of year is almost as green as a Hebridean isle in Scotland. Kids in Oman often react to it as if they were seeing snow for the first time.
And there’s also Al Mughsayl Beach, which is as bracing and rejuvenating a coastline as any you’ll find in the English county of Cornwall. Its green-strewn coastline buffets walkers with cascades of ocean spray, as they take in the view of the commanding clifftops that engulf it.
But why is the natural environment so good for us? Here are some reasons:
1. It helps us recover from stress as green is simply a restful colour to look at.
2. It helps to promote social contact. We are more likely to chat and make time for others in a rural environment.
3. It provides us with a sense of purpose, to make more of our time and to use it productively.
4. It offers us the ideal place to walk, take photographs, breathe fresh air, and spend more time with our loved ones.
If you’re off to Salalah soon, enjoy yourselves!
(Sources: APA, Wageningen University, BBC, Sam Chui, MIND)