So how do you bathe without water? Exactly what is Forest bathing and why don’t you get wet?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, we learn that – In Japan, a forest bathing trip, called Shinrinyoku in Japanese, is a short, leisurely visit to a forest and is regarded as being similar to natural aromatherapy. So, what is aromatherapy? Aromatherapy uses volatile plant materials (essential oils), and other compounds to improve one’s mind, mood, cognition and/or health.
So why Forest Bathing? We all seek rest and relaxation; we all seek the good lifestyle. In today’s society, we need to take time for relaxation. We know that being out in the fresh air, in a forest preserve or park, invigorates the body and the cells within that body – enhancing their activity. What we don’t know is that 74% of physician office visits are related to stress-induced symptoms, so if could eliminate some of those stressors, we might start to feel better. Forest bathing could, and should, be the first step.
A seasonal experience…
And, along comes forest bathing – the ideal walk in the woods – and it works any time of the year. But, now is a perfect time to get started. The days are longer and we are spending more time outside than ever before. For many of us, the economy has limited the kinds of activities that we can do solo or as a family or group. Think about it – n the spring and summer, during allergy season, spending more time in nature could have surprising health benefits. In the fall, we get a double bonus – not just a walk in the woods for fresh air and the peace that it brings to us, but the colorful array of leaves and nature. In the winter, the ground is covered with frost or snow, yet the air that we breathe is clean, cool, and invigorating. In a series of studies, scientists found that when people swap their concrete walls for some time with Mother Nature – forests, parks and other places with plenty of trees – they experience increased immune function.
A family experience…
The entire family can benefit from a walk in the woods. The kids will breathe good air, enjoy the benefits of nature, collect leaves, and scrapbook them when they get home. Parents will enjoy being outside with those nearest and dearest to them. They will enjoy nature through the eyes and ears of a child – as only children can see it.
The Russian forests…
I had the privilege of working in Russia for nearly ten years in the healthcare sector, and while I stayed in the city and used public transportation, I often thought about getting out of town for the weekend and enjoying the natural beauties of the country. My colleagues made it a point to visit their country homes on the weekends – yes, even in the winter – to sit by a fire while inside, but to experience nature in the forest outside. And, I had the joy of joining them on many occasions – walking through the forest – and revisiting nature. What a difference it made in my own life. I was working 100 hour weeks, often traveling between cities and between countries in a week’s time. I needed to relax, and I did not make the time to do so. My ‘forest bathing’ experience restored my own well-being and taught me an important lesson about self-care. You cannot care for others until you take care of yourself!
One study published in January 2011 included data on 280 healthy people in Japan. On one day, some people were instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists found that being among plants produced “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,” among other things. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17903349)
Although the University of Sussex claims a nature walk reduces stress only by 42% (as determined by pulse rate) while reading just six minutes brings your stress levels down by 68%, the side benefits of walking through the woods are very compelling. So, the next time that you are facing burnout and need to switch gears for awhile, walk away from your desk and/or your wired device, and head out for the nearest forest preserve to enjoy nature.
In addition to mental and emotional well-being, more than half of the most commonly prescribed drugs include compounds derived from nature – for example Taxol, used against ovarian and breast cancer, is derived from yew trees, while Xylitol, which can inhibit dental cavities, is produced from hardwood bark.
Your own experience…
Create your own experience with forest bathing! What can you do if you are not near a forest preserve? Simply remove your shoes and walk barefoot in your own backyard.
- Experience the earth and the ground and take time to meditate on your blessings
- Be mindful of your life, your health, your body and your being
- Make forest bathing a ritual within your family and within your home
- Get back to nature…it is easy…it is cost-effective…and the benefits are real