Forest bathing is the latest fitness trend in the natural world today. I got to know of this mid-last year and since then, I have been reading extensively on this to know what it is really about.
Though forest bathing is in the spotlight now, it doesn’t mean it originated in our day. This term actually originated in Japan in the 1980s. It was called “shinrin-yoku”.
It means “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”. It was and it still is a physiological and psychological exercise. The original aim of this was to motivate people to reconnect with nature and protect the forests in their locality.
It was also designed as an antidote for tech-boom burnout. Since then, this act has been in practice and it is spreading across the world today.
Some take this as a fitness trend while others see it as a mindfulness practice. Some call it a “back to nature movement”. Anywhere you group this wonderful therapy, one thing cannot be argued, walking in nature makes you feel good.
Misconceptions About Forest Bathing
Many take this as an exercise like jogging or hiking. This is more than an exercise, it is the act of being in nature and absorbing it through your 5 senses.
Every day, we are getting far apart from nature. In the year 2050, it is estimated that 60% of the world’s population will be in large cities. Right now, we spend most of our lives indoor.
This therapy helps to correct this unhealthy lifestyle. It helps us spend time in nature and even a little time spent in nature has a huge impact on your body.
A two hours period of forest bathing will slow you down, restore your health, and help disconnect you from technology. It de-stress and relaxes you and helps bring you to the present moment.
Benefits of Forest Bathing
Boosts your immune system
Forest bathing increases the number of your natural killer cells. These cells fight foreign invaders, cancers, and other infections in the body. They are so smart and powerful that they can destroy an infection inside your cells without destroying the whole cell.
A Japanese study showed that after a three days camp in the forest, the participants had a 50% increase in the activities of the natural killer cells. You would recover from an illness fast with a strong immune system.
Another study also showed that patients who went through gall bladder surgery recovered fast when they looked at trees through the hospital window.
The positive effect on your NK cells can last for days even after the forest bathing exercise.
Protects against diabetes and obesity
High levels of adiponectin prevent insulin resistance and diabetes. This compound is produced by fat cells and it plays a huge role in weight gain, levels of glucose, and fat metabolism.
Forest bathing increases the levels of adiponectin in your body.
It clams your mind and reduces stress and anxiety. Forest bathing relieves depression and confusion in people. It makes you happy, relaxed, and calm.
Gives a youthful skin
Inflammation is at the root cause of many chronic diseases including skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, and outbreaks. Trees in the forest release Terpenes in the air and they are anti-inflammatory in nature.
These have a positive effect on your skin.
Protects your vital organs
The terpenes released by trees relieve inflammation in the brain pancreas, liver, and other vital organs. They keep them healthy and prevent chronic and degenerative diseases caused by inflammation.
It prevents the growth and spread of cancer cells. This is due to the presence of terpene D-limonene in the air you breathe. It has anti-tumor properties and guards against a wide range of cancers.
Boosts mental health and performance
Spending time in nature improves your mental health and performance. It reduces neural activities in the part of the brain linked to high risks of mental problems.
It relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and cognitive fatigue. If you need a mental boost, just take a walk in nature. It helps you become more creative and mentally alert.
Disconnecting yourself from technology and spending at least 4 days in nature would increase your creativity by 50%. Interacting with nature will increase your problem-solving abilities.
Forest bathing is one of the most effective ways to break your addiction to smartphones and other technology.
Relieves sore muscles
The terpenes released by trees have a positive effect on your whole body. They relieve arthritis, inflammation, and even reduce joint pain. People with back and neck pain have been relieved just by forest bathing.
You can add mild exercises like stretching while forest bathing.
You get fresh air
The air in the forest/nature is the purest. The trees convert CO2 into fresh oxygen for you. The trees also release compounds in this air that calm inflammation in your body.
One of the compounds found in forest air is D-limonene. It reduces inflammation in the lungs. It helps improve the symptoms of asthma and COPD.
It increases energy and helps you sleep better
Just taking a deep breath in a natural environment is energizing and revitalizing. Forest bathing fights fatigue and increases strength. It balances hormones and metabolic processes in the body and this, in turn, will improve sleep.
Reduces your risks of heart attack
Lots of studies done on forest bathing have shown that it reduces pulse rate, stress levels, and blood pressure. It increases the levels of adiponectin in your body.
This compound protects your blood vessels from inflammation. This, in turn, will reduce your risks of a heart attack.
How to Amplify the Effect Of Forest Bathing
You can double the benefits of forest bathing by adding grounding/earthing. You can do this by going barefoot in the forest. This will improve the experience and enhance your perception of your surroundings.
Earthing will reset your natural electromagnetic field. This is obstructed by modern-day technology. It will bring your body to its set point of balance.
How to Practice Forest Bathing
When going into the woods, make sure you leave your phones, gadgets, and every technology behind. It should be just you and nature. Then you begin to walk slowly, (please permit me to use the word) “aimlessly”.
Your body should be your guide. Listen to it and go where it wants. Follow your senses, follow your nose. Don’t be in a hurry, take your time because you are not actually going anywhere.
While walking around slowly, make sure you savor the scent, sound, and sight of nature. Let the forest in. breathe in the fresh air and listen to the birds sing.
Look deeply at the green color of the forest, smell the fragrance of the forest, and take deep breaths freely. You are engaging in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides.
You can place your hands on the trunk of trees, lie on the ground, and look at the sunlight through the branches of trees, put your toes or fingers in the stream if there is one available and relax.
Enjoy the flavor of the forest and activate your joy and calm. Your state of mind, which is your 6th sense, should also be activated. This is what will help you connect to nature and it will help bridge the gap between you and happiness.
There are no strict rules to follow here. Everyone is different, follow your mind, and do what you love. Some people love the trees while others love the scent of damp soil. Look for what you love and stay there absorbing it.
You will be most relaxed in the place or environment you love. To have more benefits, you can go along with a guide who is a trained forest therapist. The guide will help you find the right environment that meets your need.
This will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed. But it is also easy to practice forest bathing without a guide, just follow your instincts. And the most important thing is that you can have a forest bath anywhere you are.
You don’t have to be in a forest to do that. You can do this wherever they are trees. You can do it in any weather. Once you’ve learned how to forest bath, you can do it anywhere including a park or even in your own garden.
Just look for where they are trees and go there. Walking in any natural environment can also give you these benefits. Consciously connecting with nature around you can also give you these benefits.
Despite a lot of criticism and negative remarks against forest therapy, the growing number of scientific evidence is showing that being in nature is good for the body-mind connection/health.
If you have the opportunity, practice this, and reap the immense benefits of connecting with nature.
- Nature therapy Wikipedia
- Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku” (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan NCBI
- Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function NCBI
- Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function. NCBI
- Acute effects of walking in forest environments on cardiovascular and metabolic parameters. NCBI
- Forest Bathing, Nature Time Are Hot Health Advice WebMD
- Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation PNAS
- How the simple act of nature helps you de-stress NBC News
- Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings Plos ONe
- Nature nurtures creativity News
- 6 Health Benefits of Being Outdoors Dr. Axe