Connect with Nature & Try Japanese Forest Bathing

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In Japan, Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ is a popular way to destress and connect with nature.

    If forest bathing was a pill, drugmakers would be touting it as the next wonder drug.

-Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark

Forest bathing involves taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the forest without any particular agenda, other than to explore and appreciate nature using all of one’s senses.

Positive Effects of Forest Bathing

If forest bathing was a pill, drugmakers would be touting it as the next wonder drug and making billions. But it isn’t a pill and doesn’t have any side-effects.

Scientific studies have shown that the positive effects of forest bathing can last up to 7 days and include:    

  1. Lower blood pressure
  2. Decreased heart rate
  3. Lower stress hormone levels
  4. Improved immune function
  5. Less inflammation
  6. Improved mood
  7. Feeling more refreshed and restored
  8. Heightened sense of being alive

Why Forest Bathing Is Good for You

Many trees (such as pines, oaks, and cedars) emit substances called phytoncides that protect them from bacteria, fungus, and insects.

These compounds are also used in aromatherapy and holistic healing. And some of the effects of forest bathing have been observed after exposure to phytoncides even when administered indoors.

It seems unlikely, however, that 100% of the effects of forest bathing are due to these compounds. There’s something about slowing down to appreciate nature that reminds us of our deep connection to the world. In this way, forest bathing could be an antidote to the feelings of isolation and disconnection perpetuated by modern life.    

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Forest Bathing for Beginners:

If you’d like to try forest bathing for yourself, here are 5 tips for getting the most out of the experience:

1. Leave all electronic devices and other distractions behind.

Or at the very least, keep them turned off and tucked away in a backpack.

2. Allow yourself to spontaneously explore your surroundings.

3. Remember that forest bathing is not a hike.

The purpose is not to get exercise or make it to any particular destination. Instead, go wherever your curiosity takes you.

4. Pause and take in the forest through all of your senses.

Sit and listen to the birds singing. Notice the smell of the fresh air and the feeling of it hitting your face. See if you can savor these experiences a little longer than you normally would.

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5. If you bring a buddy, avoid the temptation to talk.

Perhaps go your separate ways and then talk about the experience afterward. Social interaction, in itself, can be healing but the point of forest bathing is to take in nature and experience it fully. You’re too much in your head when you’re talking and interpreting the experience as it’s happening. That can get in the way of being present and tapping into all of your senses.  

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6. Be Flexible.

Depending on your schedule and where you live, it may take some creativity to figure out how to incorporate forest bathing into your life. The good news is that even short sessions (e.g., lasting 15-30 minutes) have been shown to be helpful. And if making it to a forest on your lunch break isn’t in the cards, immersion in other natural environments (e.g., urban parks) seem to provide some of the benefits of forest bathing, though perhaps not the same extent.

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Give forest bathing a try for yourself and let us know how it goes in the comments below!

 

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Sources:

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