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The Benefits of Forest Bathing: What It Is and Why You Should Do It

Have you ever experienced a profound sense of well-being after spending time in nature? It’s not a coincidence, and it’s not just all in your head either… Immersing...

Have you ever experienced a profound sense of well-being after spending time in nature?

It’s not a coincidence, and it’s not just all in your head either… Immersing ourselves in the outdoors has scientifically proven benefits for not just our mental health, but our physical health too.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into a nature-based practice called forest bathing, and how it can transform your life.

Keep reading to find out what forest bathing is, how it can benefit you and how can practice it!

 

What is forest bathing?

The concept and practice of forest bathing, also known as "shinrin yoku " emerged in Japan during the 1980s when the population was starting to notice the negative effects of modern, urban lifestyles.

Let’s make it clear, it’s not a literal bath! Forest bathing can be translated as "immersing oneself in the forest atmosphere."

Unlike hikes or nature strolls, forest bathing differs in the sense that is an immersive practice that entails fully engaging all your senses in the natural surroundings.

When forest bathing the focus is on being present and in the moment as opposed to physical exertion or reaching a destination.

This practice really encourages you to utilise all your senses, such, as sight, sound, smell, and touch, to embrace the full forest experience and receive all the incredible health benefits it has to offer.

This involves attentively walking through the woods and pausing for periods to observe and appreciate the details of the natural world surrounding you as you check in with your internal state as well.

 

The science-backed health benefits of forest bathing

1. Reduced stress

A study from 2007 found that forest bathing alleviates stress by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. (1)

2. Lowered blood pressure

A clinical trial from 2011 found that after spending time in the forest, the participants had reduced activation of their sympathetic nervous system, also known as “fight or flight”, as well as reduced blood pressure and adrenaline levels. (2)

3. Increased immune function

Research from 2010 found that walking in a forest twice a weekl could increase our number of immune cells and cancer-killing proteins. (3)

4. Improved mood

A recent review from 2021 found that nature-based therapies were effective in improving mood and reducing anxiety while reducing overall negative emotions. (4)

 

How does forest bathing work?

Forest bathing works to improve your well-being through a variety of different mechanisms.

Firstly, engaging all your senses in the forest helps to give your mind a break from cycling negative thoughts which can instantly improve your mood and reduce stress.

Trees and other vegetation also release oxygen, meaning you’re inhaling oxygen-rich air which can support the proper oxygenation of your blood and boost brain function.

Forests are also full of antimicrobial compounds called phytoncides, which are released from the trees around you. Inhaling these compounds may help to enhance immune function and reduce stress.

Forest bathing also provides benefits through aromatherapy, since the trees release aromatic compounds that can boost your emotional well-being.

 

How to practice forest bathing

  1. Choose a Forested Area: Find a nearby forest, park, or any area with plenty of trees. It doesn’t have to be a remote location; even urban parks can provide a beneficial experience.
  2. Disconnect: Leave your phone and other electronic devices behind or turn them off to minimise distractions. The goal is to connect with nature without any interruptions, if possible!
  3. Walk Slowly and Mindfully: Take your time as you walk through the forest. Pay attention to the details around you such as: the rustling of leaves, the chirping of birds, and the texture of tree bark.
  4. Engage Your Senses: Focus on what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Breathe deeply and take in the fresh air. Touch the leaves, trees, and soil to connect physically with nature.
  5. Sit and Observe: Find a comfortable spot to sit quietly and observe your surroundings. Allow yourself to simply be present and soak in the natural environment.
  6. Reflect: After your forest bathing session, take a moment to reflect on how you feel. Notice any changes in your mood, stress levels, or overall sense of well-being.

 

FAQ

Is forest bathing scientifically proven?

Yes, forest bathing is scientifically proven to enhance emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

How long should you forest bathe for?

According to research, you should aim to forest bathe for at least 1-2 hours at a time to receive the benefits. However, any time spent in nature is better than nothing!

 

Final thoughts

Forest bathing offers a profound way to reconnect with nature and reap its numerous health benefits.

By engaging all your senses in the forest, you can reduce stress, boost your immune system, and improve your mood.

Embrace this simple yet powerful practice to enhance your overall well-being and find tranquility amongst the trees!

 

 

Written by Zaheera Swing - Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist

(BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD)

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