The Magic of Forest Bathing
Forest bathing just sounds magical doesn’t it? This is one of my most beloved concepts. It inspires my outlook on life. I was first introduced to forest bathing through one of Alec and I’s favorite podcasts: Mysterious Universe. Forest bathing is fascinating in that it is both simple to do and at the same time complex to fully understand. No, it is not actually taking a bath in the woods, but to be honest that also sounds amazing. Forest bathing is the act of spending time in nature, immersing yourself in trees, and removing the distraction of technology while doing so. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous hike, it can be sitting on a large rock, alone, taking in the scents and sounds. But if you prefer exertion then climb that mountain and take in the view. The important piece is to really just be in nature, whatever that looks like for you. Mindfully communing with the natural world, a meditation of sorts. Nature and being outdoors isn’t just a hobby; it’s an essential part of our existence.
Humans used to be much more in tune with nature, living within it and depending on it for survival. However, in the last few thousand years we have increasingly turned away from it, toward technology and groups of likeminded people. Slowly allowing our lives to be consumed by tweets and likes; always surrounded by opinions and thoughts that aren’t our own. I know it can be hard to disconnect from that web but trust me it’s worth it. Those of us that love the outdoors sometimes have a hard time describing why that is. The feeling of comfort and contentment we feel after reveling in the beauty and fresh air is so abstract to put into words. The surge of peace and joy I feel while watching a sunset over a lake is far more influential on my wellbeing than hearts on a screen. That feeling stays with me, a calm that fights away the anxiety. It helps to put things into perspective; what is truly important in my life and deserves my energy.
There are scientific studies that have been published that show our need for nature at a biological level. These studies help explain the benefits of forest bathing in words and results. A study from 2016 found: “The forest bathing program significantly reduced pulse rate and significantly increased the score for vigor and decreased the scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion. Urinary adrenaline after forest bathing showed a tendency toward decrease. Urinary dopamine after forest bathing was significantly lower than that after urban area walking, suggesting the relaxing effect of the forest bathing. Serum adiponectin after the forest bathing was significantly greater than that after urban area walking.” (a) Forest bathing first immerged in Japan in the 80’s, shinrin-yoku, as it is known there. Japan launched a national program to encourage its citizens to participate and today they have literal doctors of forest medicine and guides to help people through the practice. We all know about the higher levels of oxygen available when within the trees, but the actual organic compounds they are made of benefit us as well.
One thing I’m often guilty of is not enjoying the moment. Not quieting my mind to allow it to truly take in my surroundings. This is essential in forest bathing. Don’t think about the destination of your hike or where you’re going to eat afterwards. It’s about the journey and self-discovery along the way.
Forest bathing is not only fun, but the good feeling you walk away with is grounded in science. Being in nature brings us closer to ourselves. So, the next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the fast-paced life of today, step into the forest and take a deep cleansing breath. Comment below and let us know your favorite place to bathe in the forest!
(a) Li Q, Kobayashi M, Kumeda S, Ochiai T, Miura T, Kagawa T, Imai M, Wang Z, Otsuka T, Kawada T. Effects of Forest Bathing on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Parameters in Middle-Aged Males. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:2587381. doi: 10.1155/2016/2587381. Epub 2016 Jul 14. PMID: 27493670; PMCID: PMC4963577.