" And into the Forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul "
~ John Muir
Never before have human beings been so out of tune with the natural world, and shockingly, apparently, 93% of Americans spend most of their time indoors!
If you have not heard of Forest Bathing, then you may want to do yourself a favour, and look into it, because it is hooking people all over, with promise of a new and effective way of reducing stress and anxiety.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy was developed in Japan in 1980, so it is a fairly new concept, especially to the rest of the world.
Simply put, Forest Bathing, or it's more traditional name of 'shinrin-yoku' means 'taking in the atmosphere of the forest, and the idea is to simply sit, walk or spend time in a forest in a calm and relaxed way to nourish our senses.
Please don't get confused with exercising in nature, whereby you work up a sweat and your heart rate increases drastically.
This is not the idea.
Forest Bathing is a slow, relaxing and calming practice. It is designed to be therapeutic for the mind and soul, not exercise for the physical body (although as you will be walking, some light exercise will happen)
We all know how healing nature can be, but do you actually know why this is so?
Positive Ions vs Negative Ions
It's because nature gives off a host of negative ions, and this counteracts positive ions, which are emitted from things like TV's, computers, laptops, cell phones and all other electronics.
Considering most of us spend almost all of our time in close proximity to most of these items, we can quite see why we are in desperate need of these negative ions.
The sole reason why you feel so relaxed and rejuvenated in a forest environment is because there is practically nothing electronic within range, and even if you did happen to carry your smart phone with you while taking a walk, the negative ions within in the forest would be so great, that those negative ions would cancel out the smart phone's positive ones immediately.
However in saying this, it is best to leave all electronics at home or the office!
To read more about negative ions and how they can benefit you, please check out this insightful article by clicking here.
Shinrin-yoko has been scientifically proven to help with reducing things like immune functioning, blood pressure, stress, mood, concentration, provide more energy and better sleep patterns.
The trees and plants also create Natural Killer fighting cells (NK cells) These NK cells actually look for cancer cells and bacterial and viral infections within the body and destroy them!
In fact, in Japan, there are some certified trails to do Forest Bathing, as blood samples obtained from people on these trails showed the most increase in NK cells!
Now think about it.
Can you imagine what tree upon tree in a huge forest could do for you?
The Forest has been described as medicine for the soul.
Spending just 20 minutes fully engaging your senses in this type of environment, not to mention all the extra clean oxygen you will be inhaling, the Forest is truly a gift that is unfortunately not appreciated by too many humans!
How do I practice Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy is using all your five senses to take in the healing and therapeutic powers of Nature.
As you walk through the forest, smell, listen, look, taste and feel everything around you.
Let yourself just walk in any direction of the Forest (safety first though) that comes naturally or right for you - in other words, go with the flow.
If you compelled to touch something in the Forest, then do it (use common sense though) don't try to touch a poison ivy plant, or an unfamiliar spider that you see!)
A weird thing that I love to do, and I'm always compelled to do whenever I am in any type of nature environment, is to pick up handful of soil.
It's so therapeutic and I love the feel of it in my hands!
How do I Forest Bathe?
You can Forest Bathe by:
- Walking slowly through a forest
- Sitting under a tree or lying under a tree in a forest
- Sitting and digging your bare feet into the earth
- Collecting something like mushrooms or berries
- Meditating in a quiet spot.
Whichever you choose to do, you have to practice Forest Therapy at a slow pace in order to entice your senses to take everything in.
Ideally, if you choose to walk in the forest first, you want to find a place to sit down for a while, in order to fully appreciate the natural environment around you that the Forest brings.
Remember it is no good Forest Bathing in a noisy place where there are children and dogs running around.
It has to be a quiet and peaceful place with no children or dogs with you!
You will not experience Forest Therapy at it's best if you are feeling rushed and/or running after children and barking dogs.
How often should I Forest Bathe?
As often as you like!
Even once a week Forest Bathes showed results, according to a Japanese study.
What if I have no Forests near me?
It's not a problem.
You can reap similar effects in any kind of nature area where there are a lot of trees. If you really struggle to find this, or live in a city environment and can't get to a forest, then you can just find a quite place at a park.
It won't be exactly the same, but you'll still get the benefits of nature.
if you are really stuck and simply cannot get outdoors, then I would recommend finding a place in your home that is clutter free. Place one or two plants around and set out some pictures of forests and trees around the space where you will be sitting.
Once good tip from the blog, Mama Natural, was to enhance the smells by using essential oils such as Pine, Juniper and Cedar Wood.
Placing a bowl of soil and if you are able to get some pine cones would be an awesome addition to your space as well.
However this is only a back up plan if you are seriously unable to get outdoors at all!