Benefits of Forest Bathing

Any time spent in nature is good for you. However, walking in forests and woodlands is of particular benefit.

Spending time in these environments has been shown to reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and improve overall well-being. In addition to the benefits of being in nature itself, there are the potential benefits from the unique organisms in the air in wooded areas.

Forest bathing

In Japan there is a practice called shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). It was developed in the early 1980’s to help give people a way to take a break from busy, technology focused, life, and to encourage a reconnection with nature. Researchers in Japan have spent a lot of money testing the practice for physiological and psychological benefits.

It involves spending time in nature. Walking at a slower, more relaxed pace. Breathing deeply. Taking time to observe your surroundings. Being immersed in nature and being in the moment. Reductions in blood pressure, cortisol, and anxiety have all been noted, with regular practice.

Stress and inflammation

The different types of phytochemicals in the air in these places, can be stress relieving and anti-inflammatory. The process of observing nature, and looking at naturally occurring patterns (shapes of trees, leaves, rocks etc.), can positively affect your mood and have a restorative effect.

Gut health

Another potential benefit of spending time in forests and wooded areas may be the microorganisms present in the forest air. When we breath them in, they are thought to have a beneficial effect on our gut health. The theory is that, they may not become permanent residents in the gut, but positively effect gut biodiversity as they pass through. Not sure this has been fully proven, but sounds fascinating.

Get the most from time spent in nature

To get the most of your time spent in these places, take this time to switch off from worries and busy thoughts. Turn off the music or podcast. And be present in your surroundings.

You can bring yourself into the moment by consciously focusing on your breath.

Take in a slow deep breath.

Hold it for a few seconds.

Then slowly exhale.

Do this a few times, and you will feel more relaxed and in the present moment.

Really take in your surroundings. Listen to the birds chirping. The rustling in the undergrowth. The branches swaying in the breeze. Observe the trees. The leaves. The unique shapes and patterns.

Any time your mind begins to busy itself, simply repeat the conscious breathing again.

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