Feeling stressed and anxious? The trendy Japanese practice of "forest bathing," known as shinrin-yoku, is the idea that you take the forest into your senses and it can be a calming and relaxing experience. To take a bath in nature is to mindfully connect to it with all 5 senses.
While this sounds like a good idea, are there any real health benefits to spending some time in the forest? The New York Times reports that there have been studies, many of them conducted in Japan and Korea that have found that forest bathing might decrease stress and blood pressure, improve heart rate, and lower cortisol levels. Plus, overall effects on people's mood saw a positive spike when there was a body of water nearby.
Other studies have found mixed results, but there are several theories, like a calming chemical released from trees and the aural soothing provided by birds and rustling leaves, as to why the forest might offer a form of therapy.
Even though the science is still out on "forest bathing," handfuls of medical practitioners from Atlanta to Iowa are prescribing forest walks or time in nature to their patients. But you don't need a doctor to help you get the benefits of nature.
The good news is that taking a bath in the forest is easy, inexpensive, and can be done anywhere there are trees. You can look for a local forest-bathing guide, check out "Your Guide to Forest Bathing," by M. Amos Clifford, or here is a quick how-to guide for going out and taking your own bath.
- The first step is to actually unplug, by leaving your phone and other distractions behind.
- Find a spot to walk aimlessly and let your body tell you where it wants to go.
- Use your senses to guide you. See the colors around you, smell the fresh air, listen to the birds and the trees, touch the trees and taste the air all around you.
The Doctors stress that being in nature can be a healing experience and can do wonders for your outlook, confidence, and your soul.