Forest Bathing: A Look at the What, Why, & How
Forest bathing (or shinrin-yoku) originated in Japan in the 1980s. This practice is gaining popularity in the health and wellness arena. It is a way to reconnect with nature and it offers a variety of health benefits. In this blog post, we will share more details and research on this practice, share more about its benefits, and give you tips on how to best practice it.
What is forest bathing?
According to this Time article, "By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities. According to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors." However, the good news is that in knowing this information, we can make a choice to do something positive about it, like forest bathing. You can go to the Global Wellness Institute to find more research on this topic.
While this concept may sound like you're going to be physically taking parts of the forest and using it to clean your body, that is far from the actual concept. Simply put, forest bathing is an intentional and undistracted casual stroll through the woods. The idea is to consciously connect to nature, to savor and ingest what the forest has to offer your five senses. In a way, forest bathing can be viewed as a form of ecotherapy.
Benefits of forest bathing.
There have been scientific studies conducted over several decades that show there is a direct benefit and impact to overall health and wellbeing when people spend time outdoors and in nature. In fact, according to this article from NPR, "Forest bathing helps your immune system by increasing your levels of anti-cancer proteins and immune cells that kill tumors. It's been shown to lower blood pressure and stabilize blood sugar. It can help with depression. It can lower adrenaline and turn down the dial on your body's fight-or-flight response." And this article from National Geographic, "Studies show time spent in nature reduces mental fatigue and irritability, cortisol levels, and stress."
Forest Bathing Tips.
Step 1: Plan
First, you will want to make a plan to forest bath. The primary benefit of this practice is relaxation and each person will find they reach that state in a different amount of time on different days. Therefore it's important to plan several hours or a full morning or afternoon. It is suggested to do this once a month for anywhere from 2-6 hours. The longer you spend in nature the more benefits you will reap for your mind and body.
Step 2: Prepare
Next, depending upon how long you can spend in the forest you will want to prepare for being in nature. Always check the weather before you head out. Depending upon your location, you may have mountains, rivers, or other weather related concerns that you'll want to check before you head out. You may want to consider applying sunscreen and bug spray and if you are in an area where ticks and plants like poison ivy are present, you might want to wear pants to protect your legs.
Step 3: Set Intention
The focus of this practice is to connect with nature. Set your intention before you step into the woods or onto the trail. It is important to completely disconnect from technology. Of course, we want you to be safe so be sure to let someone know that you're disconnecting for awhile.
Step 4: Go Slow & Connect with Your Five Senses
The key to forest bathing is to take your time and go slow. The whole point is to lower your heart rate and find a state of calm and relaxation. Dr. Qing Li, an associate professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, a leading expert on forest bathing, and the author of Forest Bathing : How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness has found the most benefits come from connecting with your senses. Notice what you smell and maybe incorporate some breathing exercises. Listen for the wind, rustling of the branches, and animals scurrying. Look at the variety of textures, colors, and plants. Feel the bark of different trees, petals of flowers, and leaves of plants.
"The forest is like my mother, a sacred place, a gift to me from the divine. It is a paradise of healing. To study the benefits of forest bathing is my life work." - Dr. Qing Li
To dig more into forest bathing we found a short film on it that we found enjoyable and educational.
How building a private trail can support the practice of forest bathing.
Having unlimited, private, and close access to a private trail will give you the opportunity to practice this more often. When you have a trail on your property, you can spend more time taking in the nooks and crannies. You can fully experience your land and connect with nature in a way that others often have to travel to explore. You are able to disconnect and discover your land's details. You can find places that specifically speak to you, where you can find a peace that exists no where else.
What we know is that a private trail offers landowners to fully experience, engage, and connect with nature. Thus allowing them to feel and see the positive mental, physical, and emotional impacts.
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