Forest Bathing: Exploring the powerful benefits of nature therapy
These days, the always-on hustle of life has us feeling more stressed out and preoccupied than ever before. So, slowing down to live in the moment and stay focused can often feel impossible.
And while there’s no easy fix for our fast-paced lifestyles, researchers are suggesting one simple solution for getting back on track: the outdoors.
In Japan, it’s believed that nature can help us deal with stress, lower blood pressure, and much more through a simple concept known as ‘forest bathing’. But what exactly is it and how can you reap the benefits?
What is forest bathing?
Forest Bathing is a Japanese practice known as Shinrin-Yoku (literally ‘Forest Bath’) – and it’s a form of outdoor relaxation and meditation. It was coined in the 1980s by the Japanese government yet it takes inspiration from ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices.
In short, forest bathing is the concept of soaking up the atmosphere of the forest through all five senses.
This simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeply may help you de-stress and boost your mood, health and mental wellbeing in a natural way.
But in addition to its emotional benefits; it can have physical benefits too. Research shows that forest bathing can reduce stress hormones and blood pressure, help fight cancer, boost creativity and concentration as well as improve feelings of happiness and the immune system too.
How to enjoy forest bathing
Scientific studies by the Japanese government show that just two hours of mindful exploration can have some wonderful benefits on the mind and body. But when it comes to how long, the answer is really ‘how long do you have?’ as the more time spent outdoors, the better.
But it’s not just the Japanese that appreciate the idea and benefits of ‘nature therapy’ - research by the University of Derby showed that improving our connection to nature can have some pretty amazing, positive impacts on our wellbeing.
Here’s how to do it…
1. Schedule it in
Prioritise Shinrin-Yoku in your weekly routine and make time for it. Pick a quiet time of day, such as a weekday afternoon or early morning or late afternoon on a weekend when there are fewer people around.
2. Digital detox
Turn off your phone and leave your camera behind to remove distractions so you can be fully present in the moment.
3. Be spontaneous
Don’t pre-plan your route, just walk and let the trails take you wherever you feel like going. Again, it’s about being totally present.
4. Slow down
Don’t be afraid to stop and take it all in. Walk slowly, take a seat on a branch to watch the wildlife or pack a picnic to enjoy surrounded by nature.
5. Use all five senses
Breathe in the smell of the pine trees, admire the moss crisscrossing the branches, tap into the sensation of your feet walking along the earth – what does it feel like, look like, sound like, smell like?
Focus on your breathing and allow yourself to relax and clear your mind. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths before opening your eyes and soaking up the atmosphere of the forest.
7. Be quiet
If you’re not alone, walk in silence together. Don’t talk or play any music – instead, just listen to the sounds of the forest.
8. Take your time
Two hours or more is the recommended amount of time to enjoy a forest bathing experience but a short time (even just 10 minutes) can have meditative benefits and help you to reset.
The Benefits of Nature
There are many health and wellness benefits to being outdoors with nature. We’ve listed just a few…
Stimulating the senses
Being outdoors in nature – and the act of Forest Bathing – stimulates all our senses. Whether it’s appreciating the beautiful colours of the forest, feeling the cushiony moss growing on the trees, listening to the sound of bird calls, smelling wildflowers or earth, tasting honeysuckle or edible berries, we’re engaging all our senses on a nature walk.
Dealing with emotions
Going for walks builds our love for nature. It can be a great way to deal with overwhelming emotions, such as stress, grief or anger, helping us to feel our way out of it and get our emotions in check. It can even be as simple as feeling the joy of being outdoors in such a beautiful place.
Problem solving and creativity
Sometimes all you need is a little perspective. Perhaps you’re trying to find a solution for a problem at work or you’re looking for a little creativity, going for a walk in nature has been shown to boost our creativity.
The natural way to relax
We get that not everyone has the luxury of being able to step outside into the great outdoors. We don’t all have forests and parks on our doorsteps.
That’s where CBII comes in.
Encompassing all the best parts of nature and bottling it up into a method you can enjoy day in, day out.