Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is Japan’s miraculous technique to restore your being. Whether you exercise or just relax within a forest, you will benefit in more than one way. Your brain and body will get a powerful, healthy boost.
Jody Scott wrote on forest bathing for Vogue Australia: ‘The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates called it vis medicatrix naturae. ‘ Meaning ‘the healing power of nature’.
Florence Williams wrote for National Geographic about nature’s effects on the brain: ‘when we spend time in green space, “there is something profound going on,” as [David] Strayer [, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah,] puts it.
Dr Qing Li wrote how to forest bathe for Time magazine. He stated: ‘According to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors.' This could be improved. According to him, ‘the good news is that even a small amount of time in nature can have an impact on our health.’ Further in this post you will find how you can benefit from as little as five minutes among nature. This is why, as Jody Scott puts it, ‘spending time outdoors is antidote for our technology-addicted times.’
Here is how.
Forest bathing improves physical health and comfort
It is no secret that a walk in nature is known to reduce stress and anxiety but nevertheless, here is an article title by Shamard Charles, MD, for NBC News - ‘A dose of nature: doctors prescribe a day in the park for anxiety’.
According to Mind,UK, Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways which we might not recognise as anxiety. Such are physical sensations including muscle tension, digestive problems, stomachaches, backaches, headaches, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, an overactive bladder, etc. Therefore, a lot of physical discomfort can disappear after wandering in a forest as long as it’s caused by anxiety which you can’t always be sure of until you take that walk.
Furthermore, as a study by The National Center for Biotechnology Information concludes, forest bathing has a significant effect on reduction of blood pressure. Also, according to Rahawa Haile for the Atlantic, ‘Since shinrin-yoku’s inception, researchers have spent millions of dollars testing its efficacy; the documented benefits to one’s health thus far include lowered blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and stress hormones.
Then, Vogue Australia informs: ‘Research has found forest bathing can boost our immune system by increasing the activity of the white blood cells known as natural killer (NK) cells which help us fight bad bacteria, viruses and tumours. ‘
Fancy any of these effects of forest bathing? Take a leafy “dip”. There is more than that to gain form it.
A forest “bath” increases the sense of happiness
Needles to say, a reduction in anxiety would contribute to overall happiness. When fighting anxiety isn’t taking up space and energy, we are free to make the most out of life. But that’s not the only way wandering into the woods makes you happier.
‘Researchers from the University of Essex found that as little as five minutes of a “green activity” such as walking, gardening, cycling or farming can boost mood and self esteem.’ says Reuters.
This is so according to the Business Insider as well; ‘”Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood," found an analysis of 10 earlier studies about so-called "green exercise." That review also indicated that "the mentally ill had one of the greatest self-esteem improvements.”
However, forest bathing is beneficial for everyone! A study about green exercise by Jules Pretty and Jo Barton is the evidence as it shows that ‘Physical activity participation in green settings is associated with decreased feelings of tension, confusion, anger and depression, whilst exhibiting greater feelings of revitalisation.’ Health News by Reuters further inform about this study:
‘They found that the greatest health changes occurred in the young and the mentally ill, although people of all ages and social groups benefited. The largest positive effect on self-esteem came from a five-minute dose of “green exercise.”’
Shamard Charles, MD wrote for NBC News:
'“Forest bathing,” a version of the Japanese practice Shinrin-Yoku, is taking off in American as a way to boost happiness and help with insomnia. And scientists have long studied how going into nature changes the way the brain works.'
It is said by Emily Main, in the text linked to above, that the changes nature walks cause in the brain are a significant increase in creativity and higher-level thinking. Another effect it has on the brain is said to be reducing the actual risk of mental illness and stimulating the intellect.
Forest bathing restores mental balance and brain power
According to Reuters, ‘Many studies have shown that outdoor exercise can reduce the risk of mental illness and improve a sense of well-being’
‘One study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be "useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments" for major depressive disorder.’
So if things have been getting on top of you, a walk in the forest can help you to regain your control and inner peace and keep you sane in the madness of our world. Overthinking is a common manifestation of anxiety and depression nowadays and it can be very counterproductive when it comes to dealing with a problem. Helen Briggs for BBC News, Science & Environment, wrote ‘A recent US study found that being close to nature might soothe the mind by reducing rumination - when negative thoughts get stuck on repeat, playing over and over in the mind.’ Also, this study on forest bathing informs, ‘The forest bathing program significantly reduced pulse rate and significantly increased the score for vigor and decreased the scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion.’ To add to that, National Geographic quoted ‘the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’:
‘“It is a scientific fact,” he wrote, “that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character ... is favorable to the health and vigor of men and especially to the health and vigor of their intellect.”’
Therefore, forest bathing is what you might need to clear your mind in order to think cleverly and realistically without anxiety distorting your view with negativity. Life might seem better after a walk in the woods.