Have you ever felt the complete serenity of being enveloped in a canopy of trees? Do you love that feeling of being lost in the woods with nowhere to go and nothing to do? Or do you shudder at the thought of leaving the concrete jungle? No matter where you fall on the ‘outdoorsy’ scale, you should make forest bathing a part of your life.
Why? Because spending time in nature is great for your health.
Nature therapy, forest bathing, nature bathing — no matter what you call it, the more you get outside into nature, the better you’re likely to feel. Keep reading for practical ways to enjoy the benefits of a nature bath.
What Is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing does not involve swimming, nudity, or soap. So you can stop worrying right now.
The simple definition of forest bathing is mindful, reflective time spent in the woods with no clear aim.
Nature bathing means connecting with nature, in the woods. It usually involves taking a nice, slow, meandering walk without an agenda of any sort. You don’t need to track your steps or your heart rate. You just need to take in the sights and sounds of the forest. That’s it.
How To Forest Bathe
If you’re already a seasoned hiker or nature trail dog walker, you may think you’ve got this forest bathing thing down already…but you should adjust your technique just a bit. After all, the purpose of forest bathing is not to get anywhere in a set amount of time. Nature therapy’s mindfulness component means you should probably leave the pooch at home, too.
And the dog’s not the only thing you should leave behind when you’re headed for a nature bath…you’ll have to leave your phone as well.
Here are the basic steps to a successful forest bath:
- Choose a heavily wooded area that’s not crowded. It may be best to try for your nature bath during off-hours.
- Leave your phone at home or in the car. It’s important to experience nature without the filter of an electronic device or the need to make the experience Instagram-worthy.
- Allow yourself to tune into all of your senses. Take note of how you feel, what you see, smell, and hear. Marvel at the creation that you have the privilege to experience. Let gratitude wash over you.
- Keep your pace slow and without direction. Allow your heart to guide you in the direction you want to move. The idea here is to meander, not power walk.
- Stop and smell the roses. Sit down and meditate if you feel called to. Enjoy the sound of a nearby stream. Immerse yourself in the experience of nature.
The Origins Of Forest Bathing
Forest bathing is a practice that began in Japan. Shirin-yoku, which translates to “forest bath” is a term that was coined by the Japanese in the 1980s. Although we’ve known for some time that spending time in nature was good for the soul and probably good for health, the Japanese were the first to put a name to the phenomenon. The Japanese government fully endorses forest bathing and officially encourages the practice.
In Japan, they take forest bathing quite seriously. There are certain trails that are shirin-yoku certified, and only after they’ve been studied and proven to produce health benefits. The forests in Japan that are considered appropriate for shirin-yoku are mainly conifer forests.
But many health benefits have been observed in other types of forests as well. So if you don’t live near a conifer forest, don’t worry. You can still experience the benefits of a forest bath without the certifications.
Forest Bathing Health Benefits
While the amazing feeling of soaking up every ounce of nature that you can is enough to encourage some people to get outside and nature bathe, there are some other very impressive health benefits that forest bathing has demonstrated in studies.
Overall, forest bathing has been shown to reduce markers of stress, lower pulse and heart rate, and increase parasympathetic nerve activity.
Specifically, forest bathing has shown results in several studies.
Forest Bathing Helps Your Immune System
Japanese studies have shown that forest bathing can help increase levels of natural killer cells in your body. These cells help your immune systems take down pathogens and even cancer. One study sent participants into the woods for 3-day, 2-night trips. Those who went on the forest bathing trips had lower markers of stress and increased killer cell activity that lasted for a full 30 days after the trip.
Interestingly, another study looked at the essential oils found in wood and found that they, too increase natural killer cells.
Forest bathing has also shown to:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Improve Your Mood
- Impacts Mental Health
- Help with ADHD Symptoms
- Improve Cognition
- Improve Blood Sugar Levels
- Improve Arterial Stiffness and Pulmonary Function
Forest Bathing For The Win
Forest bathing is pretty much free, easy to do no matter your current health condition, and boasts some significant health benefits.
You’ve got nothing to lose from trying it out.
And before you head out into the woods, give my quiz below a try. It may just help you figure out the root cause behind why you’re feeling less than energized these days.
But, no matter the cause, you know I’ll recommend you get outside into nature more!
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