Discover the joys of Forest Bathing and increase your happiness and wellbeing
Coming out of lockdown creates an opportunity to rediscover nature and experience the joys of Forest Bathing. The sounds and smells of the forest, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air – things that give pleasure and a sense of peace and comfort after the anxieties of the past twelve months.
Forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku, is a term coined by the Japanese that means taking in the atmosphere of the forest through our senses. It has been shown to ease stress, helping us to relax and think more clearly, restoring our mood, giving back our energy and vitality and rejuvenating our mind. By opening our senses, Shinrin-yoku bridges the gap between us and the natural world.
Dr Qing Li, is the author of a book on Forest Bathing and believes: “If you want to be more active, more relaxed, happier and healthier, you need to become closer to nature.”
By 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in cities. It is proven that city-people are more likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Urban city life is also associated with higher anxiety and depression rates. Nature can provide a solution.
Forest Bathing is good for our body
Forest Bathing offers some surprising benefits to our physical wellbeing including lowering blood pressure, boosting our immune system and helping us recover from illness and trauma more quickly.
In 2016 a study by Dr Qing Li concluded that research shows a significant effect of Shinrin-yoku on reduction of blood pressure. Lower blood pressure keeps our hearts healthy, preventing cardiovascular problems such as angina, strokes and heart attacks.
The trees and plants in our forests emit substances called phytoncides or natural plant extracts which have been found to boost the immune system. Studies have shown that Forest Bathing increases the body’s NK, or Natural Killer cell activity and part of this effect comes from the phytoncides. These were seen to last for about 30 days and as NK cells help fight disease, the study concluded that regular Forest Bathing may have a preventative effect on development of diseases.
The beneficial effect of nature on patients recovering from illness is also widely accepted. Studies have found that exposure to nature speeds up recovery. A view of nature from a hospital window has been shown to make a difference and lead to many innovations, such as the introduction of hospital gardens and sensory areas.
Forest Bathing is good for our mind
Forest Bathing can lead to positive effects on mental wellbeing too, reducing tension and stress, improving our mood, resulting in better powers of concentration and creativity.
Connecting with trees has a healing effect on our minds, stimulating the five senses and allowing us to relate to nature through our ears, eyes, noses, mouths and hands. Listen to the sounds of the forest, the bird songs and hear the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the calming green colours of the trees and golden sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the special fragrance of the forest, breathe in the natural aromatherapy of the plants and taste the edible nuts and fruits of the forest.
Place your hands on the trunk of a tree, dip your fingers or toes in woodland water or streams, sit or lay on the ground, drinking in the ambience and releasing a sense of joy and calm. You can then quickly discover your sixth sense: your state of mind. You are connecting with nature and have crossed a bridge to happiness in the natural world.
Tips to help you discover the joys of Forest Bathing
- Turn off your mobile device to give yourself the best chance of relaxing, being mindful and enjoying the forest-based experience.
- Slow down. Move through the forest gently so you can see and feel more.
- Stop, stand or sit quietly and listen to the sounds and discover the smells of the forest.
- Breathe deeply and focus on the environment, be alert to what’s going on around you.
- Take in the surroundings using all your senses. Be observant of nature’s small details.
- Keep your eyes open. You will find the colours of nature are soothing and relaxing.
- Stay as long as you can, start with a comfortable time limit and build up to around two hours for a complete experience.
- You can even practise Forest Bathing in parks and gardens near to your home.
- Once you’ve found a place that works for you, try visiting outside of peak hours for a quiet time. Early mornings or an afternoon whilst people are at school or work are best.
Forest Bathing is a powerful antidote to the pressures of the modern world, proven to deliver lasting benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing, and creating a profound connection to nature.
Join our Woodland Wellbeing sessions in November for a chance to spend some time outside and boost your wellbeing. Invest in yourself and join us in the Dorset woods to reflect, share, listen and connect.
You can discover more stories about Happiness and Wellbeing at our regular monthly online Global Happy Cafe meetings. Visit https://www.world-happiness-project.com/happiness-cafe for more details.