Forest Bathing: How a Japanese Trend Can Help Us Feel Better

Don’t worry, it’s probably not what you think!

There’s no bath tub or nudity required. Forest bathing is a practical act of mindfulness that can produce a wide range of health benefits. It’s also a trend (for lack of a better word) that seems to be helping people get outdoors and escape from the clutches of their work, deadlines or busy lifestyle. But what is forest bathing exactly?

What is Forest Bathing Exactly?

“Forest bathing” originated in Japan back in the 1980’s. It referred to a psychological exercise named Shinrin-Yoku in which an individual becomes immersed in the atmosphere of a forest. Japanese health experts came up with this concept to inspire locals to reconnect with nature, and provide relief from an increasingly tech-minded world.

Believe it or not, Japanese doctors even prescribe “Forest therapy” to patients that might be suffering from an illness. Sarah Ivens wrote a best selling book which was entirely dedicated to the topic and even National Geographic is talking about it. It’s true, in a recent article, National Geographic covered a story about New Yorkers who seek refuge in the forests of the Adirondack Mountains.Aside from having fun, these folk were using the forest as a place for meditation and as a means of getting away from all the noise. Later, the article goes on to name some of the best vacation spots for forest therapy such as New Zealand, Kenya, and Costa Rica – where forest covers more than 50% of the country.

It also makes a lot of sense….

How Forest Bathing Can Help Us Feel Better

Recent studies show that spending time outdoors can reduce the risks associated with cancer, stoke, anxiety, depression and other illnesses. What’s more, this process can help lower blood pressure, while boosting the immune system and aiding sleep. These health benefits are also well documented here, here and here.

Native evergreen trees release a high dose of phytoncides (essential oils) that boost the immune system. Evergreen needles also contain vitamin C and antioxidants and the health benefits of being exposed to these phytoncides can last for many days and weeks. When I first began looking into the benefits of exposure to forests, I also discovered that a chemical in the pine tree (pinene) is proven to relax the lungs and pinene is the very same compound that you will also find in asthma devices and….cannabis.

It should go without saying that forest bathing is not a skill and not exclusive to “outdoorsy people”. It’s just a practice and one that requires no experience or knowledge. Forest bathing is also completely free and a way to slow things down, while finding space and time to think about what really matters in life. If for no other reason, maybe forest bathing is just an excuse to get off the sofa, to go somewhere new and try to feel a little better.

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