Nothing feels better than a dose of fresh air and nature after a hectic day, week, or even month(s).
It has been known for centuries that even going outside for a short time can erase your stress and provide you with a sense of comfort. Standing amongst the trees with the sun shining on your face, listening to the leaves moving with the wind, and taking in a deep breath of crisp air can naturally restore your energy and mental state in no time.
Although we are all familiar with this wonderful feeling, it has not been defined or popularized until the past few decades. Now we know that this practice called ‘Forest Bathing’ is clinically proven to brighten your mood and help prevent health consequences associated with chronic physical and mental stress.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, is a form of ecotherapy that requires you to interact and move purposefully through nature using all of your senses. The term first appeared in Japan during the 1980s to encourage more individuals to heal with the Earth. Now shinrin-yoku is an essential part of the Japanese preventative healthcare system and is commonly suggested for natural healing.
Not quite the same as a hike or guided wilderness walk, forest bathing is a much slower and more intimate experience where you are fully immersed in nature. This practice usually lasts around 2 hours and has no path or final destination. The goal is to engage your sight, smell, touch, hearing, and even taste and let them guide you through the forest with the sole intention of connecting with nature.
Healing Benefits of Forest Bathing
Feeling better after spending time outside is not a new concept. However, as we continue to urbanize the Earth, more and more people are moving into cities and losing touch with nature. Spending more time in the forest can reconnect you with the Earth and has numerous proven benefits that help reduce everyday stress.
Not only does stress make you more irritable and fatigued, but it also takes a toll on your body. The stress hormone, cortisol, contributes to higher blood pressure, heart health complications, skin problems, asthma, poor immune system, etc. — and forest therapy is seen to decrease this hormone. Not only is there a higher concentration of oxygen, ‘phytoncide’ oils are released from the trees that can also help boost your immune system when inhaled.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to health and wellness. However, forest bathing is known to have a holistic healing effect that not only supports your mental state but can also improve your physical concerns as well. With these interconnecting benefits, decreasing your cortisol levels even just by a bit can have a domino effect to soothe a variety of concerns associated with stress.
Tips to Enhance Your Experience
Starting your ecotherapy is simple — choose a nearby forest or provincial park that you are comfortable exploring, and prepare for this journey beforehand. If possible, get a full night’s rest and a proper meal prior to your walk. It’s also helpful to mentally prepare by slowing down your thoughts and taking a little CBD to help your mind stay grounded and present.
To optimize your forest bathing session, make sure to keep the phones turned off or leave them at home to minimize any distractions. This therapy has its benefits both when done alone or in a small intimate group. Once in the forest, you can choose to enjoy the environment with the aid of another activity that you enjoy: such as meditation, yoga, breathwork, etc. to support mindfulness.
Whether you’re forest bathing for better health or happiness, there’s without a doubt something special about spending time surrounded by nature. Frequent practice of this therapy can help you create a rewarding routine to support total mind, body, and soul health for the long term.