The great news about forest-bathing is that you can do it in any weather during any season. And, during this unique season of social distancing, there is no better time to pick up nature walks than right now. Here’s our guide on how to start forest-bathing.
History and Interesting Stats of Forest-Bathing
Did you know that the average American spends 93% of their time indoors? Plus, ten hours of a day on social media! This is unreal. These stats are enough to, at the very least, spark some curiosity on the study of forest medicine.
The art of forest-bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, began in Japan. It entails slowly walking through the forest and taking it all in through your senses. In 1982, Japan launched a national program to encourage people to start forest-bathing. Today, over 2.5 million people in Japan integrate this practice into their health and wellness program.
Healing Benefits of Forest-Bathing
Japanese medical doctor and researcher, Qing Li, has dedicated his life’s work to forest medicine. Through his studies, he found that spending time in the forest has been linked to reduced stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. It strengthens our immune system (hello, again, never a better time to start!). It improves our cardiovascular and metabolic health and boosts our overall well-being.
One can argue, based on the stats above, that there is a disconnect between human life and nature. Yet, Li says there is a biological need to connect with nature. His studies even prove that people sleep longer and better when they integrate forest or nature walks into their lives.
There are two main reasons why forest-bathing might have such a significant impact on our health. 1 – there is a higher concentration of oxygen in forests, as compared to an urban setting. And, 2 – there is a presence of plant chemicals called phytoncides, that when exposed to give humans their health benefits. Evergreen forests seem to have the highest concentration and therefore, are the most beneficial.
Now, the How to Forest-Bathe
1 – Find a spot. Any green area will do. If you aren’t close to dense woods, head to a garden or a park even. Listen to your wisdom and let your body guide you.
2 – Ignite all of your senses. Nature can enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet. Dr. Li says that once you do this, drink it all in, you will feel a sense of calm and joy.
3 – Spend as much time as you can. Don’t rush. 20 minutes to four hours is the recommended time. Don’t bring your cell phone with you.
4 – If sitting or walking is challenging, try yoga in the woods. Tai Chi, bring a picnic, journal.
5 – Silence is restorative. Enjoy it. Listen to nature’s sounds – the birds, the leaves rustling, a trickle of water.
Most importantly, in these strange times, allowing ourselves to adopt this forest-bathing practice has been proven to make us less selfish. We feel part of a larger whole. We can all agree that, during extreme social distancing, this is a powerful tool to remind us that we are all in this together. Get out there and stay healthy, friends.
Happy forest #wildbumming!