By Melissa Fey
This is a new concept in the United States, but Forest Bathing has been practiced in Japan for many years. The idea is to immerse yourself in the forest. This is not a hike but more a leisurely walk using all your senses to engage with Nature.
Contact with nature is as vital to our well-being as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Just as our health improves when we are in nature, our health suffers when we are divorced from it. As we walk slowly through the forest, seeing, listening, smelling, tasting and touching, we bring our rhythms into step with nature. Shinrin-Yoku is like a bridge that opens our senses and bridges the gap between us and the natural world. When we are set in harmony we can begin to heal.
Why should we be interested in Forest Bathing?
~3.9 billion people live in cities
~Living in cities can be stressful
~The average American spends 93% of their time indoors
~A high percentage of our time indoors is spent looking at screens
Even a small amount of time, as little as two hours, will help you unplug from technology and slow down. Forest Bathing can help:
~Reduce blood pressure
~Lower stress levels
~Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health
~lower blood-sugar levels
~Improve concentration and memory
~Improve pain thresholds
~boost the immune system
~Increase anti-cancer protein production
~Help you to lose weight
A walk in the woods can do all this?
There are natural oils in plants, Phytoncides. They release these oils as a part of their defense system to protect them from bacteria, insects and fungi. It is the way that the trees communicate with each other. A study at the Mie University in Japan showed that the citrus fragrance of phytoncides is more effective than anti-depressants for lifting mood and ensuring emotional well-being.
The microbes in the soil we breathe, Mycobacterium vaccae, activate neurons associated with the immune system. Soil stimulates the immune system and a boosted immune system makes us feel happy. Digging in the garden or eating vegetables from the earth will give yourself a boost.
How to get started. Visit someplace that will fill your heart with joy. If you do not live near a forest, a local park will do. Trees in the city are just important as trees in the country. a single tree can absorb 4.5 kg of air pollutants in a year.
~Leave your camera and phone behind
~ Let your body be your guide
~Listen to where it wants to take you
~Take your time
~Focus on your breathing
~Savor the sounds, smells and sights of nature
~Let the Forest IN
~Listen to the birds sing and leaves rustle
~Smell the fragrance of the forest, breath in the phytoncides
~ Place your hands on a tree, dig your fingers/toes in a stream
~Cross the bridge to happiness via your natural path
If you cannot go outside, bring the outside in by using tree essential oils. A test performed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Emergency Department, which is a high stress and fatigue area, showed hat using essential oils generated from pine, cedar, spruce and other conifers made a big difference. 84% of the people tested felt that essential oils contributed to a more positive work environment.
Work-related stress 41% 3%
Feeling well equipped to handle stress 13% 58%
Perceived energy levels 33% 77%
Develop a hands-on approach to the Natural World. Get in harmony with the earth. Take some time and practice Shinrin-Yoku, you will benefit from nature.