Do you remember the last time you took a walk out in the park or amongst the flowers and trees? If not, you are not alone because more and more of us are spending our precious time isolating ourselves from nature. But what most of us don’t realize is that our modern fast-paced life, which is out of contact with nature, is severely weakening our health, both physical and mental.
To clarify, a survey sponsored by the EPA has presented their finding that informed us that, we in America, spend almost our entire time (93% of each week) indoors, away from the benefits nature has to offer. We may not notice it normally but there is a significant effect of our environment on our mental and physical health. Fortunately, there is now an age old solution to this problem, and it’s called Forest Bathing.
The History Of Forest Bathing:
Forest bathing is the practice in which you reconnect with nature by taking a walk in the forest. This practice has been used in Japan and Korea for some time and is recognized as a valid form of preventative health care and healing in Japan. In Japan where this practice was first coined, it is called Shinrin-Yoku (森林浴) and in Korea as Sanlimyok (산림욕). Shinrin-Yoku means “taking in the forest atmosphere” in Japanese.
The incorporation of this practice into the day to day life was proposed by the Forest Agency of Japan in 1982 which has now been introduced into the western world in 2007 where the first ASEUSY European Association of Shinrin-Yoku was formed.
What Is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing is the practice of reconnecting with nature using your five senses while leaving behind the clutter of the mundane life behind, at least for a short while. This can be achieved by a simple walk in the forest or woods where you switch off your phones, forget your worries and explore the beauty and majesty of the natural world around you.
It seems simple enough, right? Yes, it is, but this simple practice is often new and foreign for the most of us due to our lack of connection to the natural world or our lack of time to indulge ourselves with a walk in the woods. And while forest bathing is simple, the benefits it can give you are tremendous.
The Purpose Of Forest Bathing:
The reason you should be trying this on and informing your loved ones about it is that of the scientifically proven benefits you can enjoy. Forest bathing is a practice that helps you slow down and immerse yourselves into the natural environment by tuning into the sights, smells, tastes, and textures of the forest. This interaction with the forest has shown to be beneficial to your mental and physical health with participants showing reduced blood pressures and improved immune systems, amongst many other benefits.
The Science Behind Forest Bathing:
The study on forest bathing has been quite detailed with satisfactory results from the initial test conducted in Japan. The research was conducted in the late 1990’s by the Department of Gerontotherapeutics at Hokkaido University School of Medicine. In this research, 87 participants were asked to either walk 3 km in a forest, which took 30 minutes or 6 km which took an hour and collected blood samples periodically. These participants were selected because they were non-insulin dependent diabetic patients and the test was conducted 9 times over a period of 6 years. The conclusion was that the practice of forest bathing was very beneficial to the health of the diabetic patients with their average blood glucose levels have dropped by over 38.9% and 40% for the 3 km and 6 km walk respectively.
Another study in 2011 in which researchers compared the effects of walking in the city and walking in the wilderness on the health of the participants. This study by Li Q and co. found that while both walking in the city and the forest need the same amount of physical activity, the forest provided significantly more benefits related to blood pressure and stress as the researchers stated in their study. The day trip to the forest park significantly reduced blood pressure and urinary noradrenaline and dopamine levels and significantly increased serum adiponectin and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) levels.
Some research has been conducted that points towards components in the trees and tree sap that could be helpful for people. While some such as the scent of cedar are distinctive, some like the tree-derived phytoncides are subtle be just as effective towards decreasing in stress hormones while boosting the activity of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell in the body. Other studies have also shown results in a drop in blood pressure when exposed to inhalation of cedar wood oils.
The Benefits Of Forest Bathing:
Now that we have gotten the science part of forest bathing out of the way, let’s take a look at the main benefits of this tranquil exercise in human well-being:
- Improved focus, including those living with ADHD
- Drop in blood pressure
- Faster recovery from illness or surgery
- Improved sleep patterns
- Improved energy levels
- Enhanced immune system
- Reduction in mental stress
- Increase in activity of the body’s Natural Killer cells protecting against illnesses
- Boost in mood
The How-To Guide On Forest Bathing:
So, now that you have been informed about forest bathing, its research and its benefits, aren’t you wondering what to do next to get these benefits. Well, there are communities and guides available for those interested in forest bathing with many of the guides in the US and Europe being certified by The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a forest conveniently located near you for your daily or weekly forest bathing, you can do like I do. Every morning, I take to my local park, unplug myself from the technology around and walk, simply walk and enjoy myself. I let go of all the burdens, responsibilities and baggage I carry on my shoulders. And I walk and immerse myself into reconnecting with Mother Earth without worrying about anything at all. This morning walk of mine doesn’t take much time either, usually between 15 to 35 minutes.
Experts suggest going outdoors at least for an hour a week, preferably on a regular basis. How much you do is entirely up to you with the end result of you easing your mind and getting healthy at the same time. Hope this article has inspired some into making some time out of your busy schedules to try and enjoy firsthand the benefits of forest bathing.