June 18, 2024

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The Benefits of Forest Bathing for Your Mental and Physical Health

3 min read

Front view of young woman on a walk outdoors in forest in summer nature, walking.

Forest bathing is an immersive sensory experience in nature which can enhance your mood, reduce stress levels, increase focus and promote creativity.

Forest bathing requires finding a natural area and disconnecting from all devices, slowing your pace while using all five senses to experience it: smell the air, hear birdsong and touch leaves or soil with all five senses.

1. Reduces stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but too much can become debilitating and lead to serious mental and physical health issues. Forest bathing may help lower stress levels while improving mood.

Spending time outdoors can also help lower your heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels as well as boost immunity by increasing natural killer cell numbers that fight germs.

Forest bathing allows you to reap all its benefits in a tranquil, fresh-air setting where you can immerse yourself in all five senses, experiencing what lies around you with all five senses. You can practice this technique alone or as part of a group, just try to limit any distractions and stick with your plan for as long as you can, perhaps informing someone where and when you will return.

2. Increases attention

Forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) can help improve concentration by immersing yourself in nature. Choose a safe natural setting without distractions and use all five senses when taking in what nature offers – bring along a cushion for comfort or even a journal to record what you experience (but watch out for poison ivy!). If desired, bring along an additonal item such as a sit pad for added support if possible (just make sure there aren’t any poisonous plants nearby!).

Nature walks also help promote mindfulness, helping reduce stress by emphasizing living in the moment and teaching you to identify and let go of negative thoughts that arise during walking trips.

Forest bathing therapists advise starting small; starting by giving yourself five to 10 minutes daily until reaching 120 minutes every week. Keep practicing, the more benefits will accrue!

3. Boosts immunity

Forest bathing can do much more than boost your attention and focus – it can also boost your immunity system! Studies have revealed that phytoncides, or wood essential oils released by trees and plants in a forest environment have shown to boost natural killer cell activity – this being beneficial for people suffering from auto-immune disorders or other chronic health conditions.

Carmichael and McEwan advise incorporating forest bathing into your daily life, whether that means taking a slower-paced stroll around your block or seeking out green spaces on your commute – even if it just means switching your perspective, according to them, it still offers benefits.

Qing Li, who has studied shinrin-yoku for many years and serves as president of the Society for Forest Medicine in Japan, asserts that people must spend more time outdoors. We were created to be connected to nature.

4. Increases creativity

Forest bathing enhances creativity by helping the part of the brain that’s stimulated by stress to relax, leading to clearer thinking and improved concentration.

Qing Li of Japan conducted extensive shinrin yoku research. Forest bathing increases immunity by stimulating the release of phytoncides – essential oils from wood that help fight diseases – as well as decreasing time spent being sick by increasing your natural killer cells.

Even in busy urban environments, incorporating shinrin yoku into everyday routine is possible by slowing down on your walk to work or choosing routes with more vegetation. Kirsten McEwan, an expert on health and wellbeing research suggests starting off small – five to 10 minutes of outdoor time daily before gradually building it up to 120 minutes over seven days.

5. Boosts mood

Imagine strolling through a forest as birds sing melodies around you, the wind softly blows trees, and sunlight filters through leaves – that’s forest bathing, commonly known as shinrin-yoku in Japan. According to researchers, forest bathing helps relieve stress while simultaneously improving mood, immune function, clearing the mind, and providing inner space to relax in.

Forest bathing differs from hiking in that you take it at your own pace with mindful focus, rather than sweating through or swatting away bugs. Forest bathing allows you to observe your environment with an emphasis on engaging all five senses; sight, smell, touch and sound should be engaged. Therefore it’s ideal to go somewhere without many distractions such as a park; then silence devices so your mood improves and you feel its benefits!

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