What exactly is forest bathing and can it really make you feel better?
Forest bathing is something we’ve probably all experienced at one time or another but never had the words or science to explain. How would you like to feel refreshed, rejuvenated, relaxed, to think more clearly, worry less, and improve your mood without barely any effort?
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The term “forest bathing” (or shinrin-yoku) was coined by the Japanese in the early 1980’s.
Forest bathing began as part of a national health campaign (can we get that here???) as well as a way to get people to help protect the forests. It doesn’t mean taking an actual bath in the woods, although that would be awesome too. (Recently I was fortunate to practice the art of spiritual bathing with renouned herbalist Rocio Alarcon from Ecuador at the Women’s MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference and can’t wait to tell you all about it.)
Forest bathing is spending an hour or two in the forest, soaking in its essence with all five of your senses. Leaving behind the cellphone, your watch, the iPod. Simply taking the time to wander in nature, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Touching the trees and the plants. Feeling the fresh air brush against your skin. This isn’t hiking or heading somewhere with an agenda. Its purpose is not physical exercise. It is spending slow time in nature, without any specific plan, except for maybe hugging a tree. (Literally!)
I’d be willing to bet you’ve practiced it without realizing it, especially as a child. Since Japan began its national health campaign, there have been tons of scientific studies that back up its many benefits.
In our busy age of technology, cell phones, and computers some studies show that we spend an average of 93% indoors. All of this screen time can create “technostress.” Technostress includes symptoms such as headaches, mental fatigue, eyesight problems, neck and shoulder issues, insomnia, irritability, depression, and weight gain. I’m pretty sure we can all relate to this!
So what is the solution to this technostress? Forest medicine. My new love.
Scientific studies has shown that forest bathing can help:
- reduce blood pressure
- lower stress
- lower blood sugar
- improve memory and concentration
- improve metabolism
- decrease depression
- increase your pain threshold
- improve energy
- boost the immune system
- lose weight (Yes, you read that right! Weight loss without real exercise.)
Forest bathing can be practiced in all seasons, from early spring when the trees are budding, through brightly colored autumn, and even into the quiet stillness of winter.
I’ve always loved nature and trees in particular. Trees hold ancient knowledge. They produce the oxygen we breathe, clean our air, and purify our water.
As a child I dreamed of having the ultimate tree house. I remember searching for trilliums in the woods (my grandmother called them skunk flowers) and swinging from wild grapevines that hung from the old trees. I love the essential oils of conifer trees and for years I’ve been on the hunt for an herbal book that concentrates on just trees, our largest plants.
Then one day I came across Dr. Qing Li’s book, Forest Bathing. The spine of the book has the illustration of a tree trunk on it. When you open the book, the image expands into a full tree with branches spreading onto the front and back of the book. My heart did a flutter and I was sold. I needed this book. And while I still didn’t find my book on the herbal aspect of trees, I found forest medicine in another way and have been obsessed with the subject ever since.
Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. -Dr. Qing Li
So, if you want to feel refreshed, rejuvenated, relaxed, to think more clearly, worry less, and improve your mood without barely any effort I highly recommend trying some self care with forest bathing!
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