I love is trees. Regardless of where they are or how old they are, trees make me happy. Apparently, I am not the only one who had noticed that trend! In Japan, forest bathing (Shinrinyoku) is widely practiced and has many health benefits. Read this article to learn how a walk through the trees can make you a healthier (and happier) human being.
What is Forest Bathing?
If you are imagining yourself in a bathtub with a bunch of tree branches, I’m sorry, but that is not what forest bathing is. Forest bathing is merely the process of consciously and mindfully walking through the woods.
Forest bathing is not:
- Trudging mindlessly through the forest
- Arguing with your friends on a hike
- Or being terrified that something is watching you take a shower in the woods
In short, Shinrinyoku is basically meditation in nature.
Naturally, you get even more benefits when you combine mindfulness with the great outdoors!
Benefits of Shinrinyoku
When we meditate, we can gain mastery over our thoughts. Thus, because forest bathing is a form of meditation, it makes sense that it also helps us control our thoughts.
Furuyashiki and colleagues measured the impact forest bathing had on working-age people. They found that a day-long excursion into the forest improved the mood of all participants. Furthermore, participants with depressive tendencies showed the greatest mood increases! Subsequently, as mood increased, fatigue decreased.
In other words, a day in the woods improved mood, lowered fatigue, and decreased depression.
Qing Li, another researcher, sought to explore the relationship between forest bathing and the immune system.
He measured this based on the number of immune cells found in participants’ blood. After a 2-day time period, Li found that forest bathing significantly increased the number of active immune cells in the human body. This result was not replicated when participants took a similar trip to the city.
Forest Bathing: Where Can You Do It?
Where I live, there aren’t too many trees.
In fact, before my parents moved to our farm, the hill we now live on was bald. Twenty years later, our trees aren’t looking too bad. But we still don’t live in a forest.
But, I digress.
How can you bathe in the forest, if you don’t have access to a forest nearby?
Based on the resources I can find, the forest itself is not obligatory.
Blue Mind is a similar theory that being close to a body of water has cleansing properties. There are apps and programs you can use to virtually visit a forest.
However, based on my research and my understanding of forest bathing, there are two requirements.
Perhaps, you are sitting in a city park, and you are paying extra close attention to the newly budding leaves of the bushes. Maybe you are a prairie gal like me, and you get to watch the crocuses bloom for the first time in a year. Or, you are sitting in your backyard (or on your balcony) breathing the fresh air, and listening to the birds.
You are calm. Breathing slowly, you take the time to notice the world around you.
Mindfulness & Immunity: The Stress Connection
I have mentioned in previous articles that stress can tear apart your immune system.
When we do not address our life stressors, we can quickly become overwhelmed. Overwhelm can lead to neglected self-care, nutrition, and fitness.
Mindfulness is key to managing stress.
So how can something as simple as sitting in the forest boost immunity and mental health? Forest bathing asks us to be mindful, which lowers stress, and in turn, supports our immune system!
Which, if you have paid any attention to 2021 news, is a key practice.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article! If you would like to read more of my content, please subscribe to our weekly updates or leave a comment with your thoughts. You can also get in touch with me to request a topic for a future article! Have a wonderful week, and take the time to breathe in nature.