Almost every day, I go for a bath in the forest. I find it relaxing, good for my health, and puts me in a better mood. There are so many nice things about bathing in the woods. The bubbles, the hot water, sitting there in the tub among the trees with my rubber ducky…
Ok, maybe it isn’t exactly like that, but I do spend a lot of time forest bathing. In actuality, it is more scientific than whimsical. The Japanese have used the term “forest bathing” or “shinrin-yoku“ to describe a kind of forest therapy that involves spending time in natural forest environments. Studies behind spending time in natural areas show that the body has a number of powerful hormonal responses. These include protective factors against depression and anxiety and have been shown to reduce the symptoms of ADD and ADHD. Some studies suggest that these positive effects are cause by the phytoncydes or natural wood oils that trees give off to help to ward of pests. When we are exposed to these, it is shown to lower blood pressure and heart rates, while strengthening the immune system and increasing our sensory perceptions. Other studies have even shown that these natural antibodies fight off cancer growth. These positive benefits have been shown to last for upwards of a month! All this from just spending time in forests. Does this change your plans for the weekend?
Even for you skeptics out there, just spending time away from it all in a natural setting has a lot of these same effects on your body and mind. A disconnection from the commotion of an artificial environment for a time will lower your blood pressure, and help to clear your mind. Our senses become more engaged in an evolutionary kind of way, different from the way that they are engaged in our modern environments. This creates the balance that I stressed upon in the last post. There are also the added benefits of preserving natural areas. There isn’t any harm in spending time in the forest, and you don’t actually have to tell people that you are forest bathing.
I feel that I can go on and on about all of the health benefits involved with spending some time in the outdoors. From the cost saving benefits of not paying for a gym membership to go and exercise to all of the psychological benefits of reconnecting with our evolutionary roots, and even including increased cognitive prowess. We are so focussed on diet and exercise in today’s society, along with the environment, poverty, the economy, sustainability, work, and the list goes on (Just read the news). The outdoors is a major part of that all as well, but fails to get the attention it deserves. It is our evolutionary background and helps us sort through it all. Everything is way more difficult when we are not feeling well. Things seem to begin to fall apart at the seems. If we can help things out and think clearer for free just by spending time outside in natural areas, let’s do it! All of the biggest ideas and discoveries also come from the smallest of things. The people who came up with them just thought a little bit harder about it. Nature can lend us a helping hand.
Hopefully I have managed to get you thinking (which you will be able to do better in the outdoors!) and begin to make small changes for the better. It may seem like another thing to add to the list of things that will make you healthy, but as I have said before: It is all about creating balance. I know that I will continue to spend time in the outdoors, as I have seen all the benefits it has done for my health. I may also see something new along the trail I take every day at work in the forest, or I may see nothing new at all. That can keep things exciting and why I plan to continue to take part in forest bathing.
Now it is time for my idea of the week: This week I want you to share some of the things that you learned here in this post, or through exploring any of the links above. A big market for this is youth in today’s society. They are the most separated from the natural world and connected to technology. Share the information with adults because youth will just tune you out. Instead, show youth the benefits by doing something new and exiting in a natural space. From before: Be creative!
I’ll leave you with this video trailer: