I’ve been spending a lot of time in the forest recently and feeling really good! So it got me to wondering ‘what were the benefits of this so-called ‘forest bathing’?’ Seriously consider scheduling it in your diary for your next available day off – this is what I found out;
Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is the practice of immersing oneself in nature, particularly in forests, for the purpose of enhancing physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Here are some benefits associated with forest bathing:
Stress reduction: Spending time in a forest environment has been shown to reduce stress levels. The soothing sounds, sights, and smells of nature have a calming effect on the mind and body. Being in a forested environment can lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and alleviate symptoms of anxiety.
Improved mental health: Forest bathing has been found to have a positive impact on mental health. It can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and improve overall mood. Being in nature can also enhance creativity and cognitive function.
Boosted immune system: Phytoncides, which are natural oils released by trees and plants, have been shown to enhance the activity of our natural killer cells and other immune system components. Forest bathing can thus improve our immune response and overall health.
Increased energy and vitality: Being in nature, surrounded by trees and fresh air, can rejuvenate the body and provide an energy boost. It helps reduce fatigue and increase vitality.
Improved sleep quality: Spending time in forests can positively impact sleep patterns. The fresh air, natural sounds, and relaxation gained from forest bathing can contribute to a better night’s sleep.
Enhanced cardiovascular health: Forest environments are often rich in phytoncides, which can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. Forest bathing has been associated with reduced blood pressure, lowered heart rate, and improved circulation.
Increased mindfulness and presence: Forest bathing encourages mindfulness and being fully present in the moment. It allows individuals to disconnect from technology and daily stresses, promoting a sense of calm and inner peace.
Improved respiratory health: Forests are natural air filters, and the air quality within them tends to be cleaner and free from pollutants. Breathing in the fresh forest air can benefit respiratory health and help alleviate respiratory conditions.
Connection with nature: Forest bathing provides an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world. It fosters a sense of awe, gratitude, and appreciation for the beauty and complexity of nature, which can improve overall well-being.
Physical exercise: Engaging in forest bathing often involves gentle walking or hiking, which provides light physical exercise. This can contribute to improved fitness levels and overall physical health. Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that contribute to feelings of happiness and well-being.
What is the ideal amount of time for forest bathing? Here are some general guidelines:
- Minimum time: Aim for at least 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time in a forested area. This allows you to start experiencing the calming effects of nature and begin to unwind.
- Extended sessions: If possible, consider extending your forest bathing session to 1-2 hours. Spending more time in nature allows for a deeper connection and a more immersive experience.
- Frequency: Engage in forest bathing regularly to reap the benefits. Ideally, aim for at least once a week or more if possible. However, any opportunity to spend time in nature, even if it’s less frequent, can still be beneficial.
- Quality over quantity: While spending a longer time in nature is beneficial, the quality of your experience is equally important. Focus on immersing yourself in the present moment, engaging your senses, and cultivating a mindful connection with the natural environment.
- Tailor to your needs: Adjust the duration of forest bathing to suit your needs and comfort level. If you’re new to the practice, start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
It is my passion to support people in understanding what is at the root of the health conditions that they are facing. Functional medicine hand in hand with nutritional therapy helps me unearth the reasons for ill health and the obstacles that have been preventing recovery.
I wholeheartedly believe we are a blend of our histories; our food and lifestyle choices and our genetics – in fact, we are unique walking recipes ourselves. Finding the ingredients to help you make the best version of yourself is part of my work, so you can establish a loving friendship with your body and find balance in your life.