What Is Forest Bathing?
Shinrin Yoku–forest bathing is essentially just being on a trail: walking, sometimes sitting, sometimes just lying on a boulder, and letting nature pour into all of your senses.Imagine what this might be like, your sitting there in the middle of this forest and you hear the birds and crickets. You’re smelling the rich loamy earth and maybe he scent of fresh pine trees.You can feel the breeze on your cheek and the moss under your feet.How does this make you feel? What effect do you think this has on your body?
According to Qing Li, a doctor at Nippon Medical School and president of the Japanese Society of Forest Therapy, forest bathing is a cure-all: Time spent with trees can boost the immune system, increase energy, decrease anxiety, depression and anger, reduce stress and bring about a state of relaxation.As Li writes, rather breathlessly, “trees can make you feel richer and younger.”
Scientist in Japan sent 84 stressed-out college students to go hang out for 30 mins in these forests and then also to go hang out on a city street.This is what they found among the forest bathers…
- A 16% drop in the stress hormone cortisol.
- A 2% drop in blood pressure.
- A 4% drop in heart rate
None of this happened in the people who went to the city.And the people who went to the forest also reported less anxiety and better moods, whereas the opposite happened with the people that went to the city.
The conclusion of this scientific study is that “nature” has superpowers for us and it even has a dose effect.They are saying that the more time you spend in nature, better things can happen. Agree!!
Japan continued to send a group of people to spend 3 days in a forest lodge and they found a 40% increase in an immune cell called natural killer cells which is critical to the immune system. You know the group that went to the city got none of this free immune enhancing treatment.There really isn’t just a vacation effect, there truly are benefits from being in nature.Nature was created for us to live in, it has natural order to it, and we too have a natural order of wellbeing.We need to feel this sense of “awe”. This is a recently new subject and being researched now, there will be much more coming out on this in the future.
‘Awe’ is that sense of wonder felt in the presence of something vast that transcends one’s understanding of the world. People commonly experience it in nature but also in response to religion, art and music. Interesting enough ‘Awe’ promotes altruistic behavior, “compassion” UCI-led study finds…inducing a sense of awe in people can promote altruistic, helpful and positive social behavior, according to new research led by UC Irvine psychologist Paul Piff.
Learn more by following the link…
Japan has 62 designated therapeutic woods, attracting about 5 million visitors annually.Korea will have 37 healing forests and they are training 500 healing rangers to lead programs for everyone, from digital addicts to school bullies.Interesting that the school bullies get to take a train named “the happy train” from the school to the forest.Cleaver to think our children could use a little bit of nature instead of chemical processed potions that are dangerous and certainly unrecognizable by the body.They are also creating programs for firefighters with PTSD, and even prenatal women and cancer patients.
Finland has recommended a specific dosage of nature to ward off depression.They recommend five hours a month of being in nature or a little over an hour a week.Finland is a country covered with forest, coastlines and parks.
Forest medicine is the most accessible, inexpensive health care available to humanity as it is free.In the forest – assuming you aren’t lost and panicking-your gaze softens and opens.You are attentive, aware but not tense, and this relaxed attention makes you more mentally receptive.They found that we think and see more clearly in nature.Natural beauty soothes us, he believed, and that beauty relaxes the mind, too.University of Michigan psychologist Stephen Kaplan says that we enter into a state of “soft fascination” in the woods.That’s when our attention is captured effortlessly and involuntarily, and the mind isn’t straining to process a jumble of visual stimuli.
Time outside in nature can also make us more creative.When we spend time outside in beautiful places, a part of our brain called the subgenual prefrontal cortex quiets down.This is the part of the brain that is associated with negative self-involved thoughts.A researcher at Stanford made the nature connection when he sent a group of subjects to go walk in a beautiful park in Palo Alto for 90 minutes and he sent another group to go walk in a city street, and then he imaged their brains.And it was only the people who walked in the park who experienced this beneficial change.
So, you have it, this is nothing new but with all the research we see the physical changes that can be made along with changing the wellness of our psyches.John Muir understood the power of nature as his many quotes share that “between every two pines is a doorway to a new world”.My favorite is “ In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”.I was fortunate to live in the country and grow up taking many walks in the woods when I was confused.Entertaining myself with creative play in the forest and climbing the mountains to sit there for hours letting the confusion transcend. I believe we have incredible superpowers around us that we are ignoring especially when all we need to do is“get out and do it often” !
If you haven’t been in nature recently you may not have recognized that nature isn’t silent.Spend time among trees and you might hear birdsong, the rumble of thunder, gurgling water, breezes on branches, crunching leaves, howls, and much more.This rich symphony is increasingly rare to hear.
Next trip into the woods, begin with tuning in to the forest frequency by slowing down, listening in all directions, and even closing your eyes to hear more keenly.
For those times you cannot get away to the forest you may want to try listening to nature recordings.
I personally recorded the sound of a babbling brook the last time I was in Boulder, CO .Unfortunately, my son deleted my recording as he ran out of space to play his games, ughh. So, coming across these sounds of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park in Washington state, has been nice.The recording has been created by George Hempton, founder of the independent research project One Square Inch of Silence.
One more thing to mention, most mothers will enjoy this talk by pediatrician Dr. Razani’s. She speaks to her realization that all children must be in nature!I am so grateful I grew up in nature and had the ability to run in the forest, fish and jump in the brooks and sit endlessly on the mountains of a small village in New Brunswick, Canada.
Dr. Nooshin Razani talks about the healing power of nature as well as why it is her mission to prescribe time in nature as a way to treat health conditions. Watch Dr. Nooshin Razani’s talk to learn how and why nature can be an essential part of healthy living.
Some of the best things are free! Be in wellness and joy, Diane