When we are able to take a few moments out of our hectic schedule and wander into nature, we feel a sense of lightening, of our burdens feeling not quite as oppressive, and our stress easing a bit.
If we go out into nature and try take a moment away from all the stresses of our lives, we can let our senses explore. We can hear the wind in the tree branches, the birds chirping to each other, and the rustle of leaves when a chipmunk scurries along. We can feel the moss growing on the rocks and the deep, rough ridges in the tree bark. We can smell the blooming flowers, the scent in the air right before a spring rain shower, and the crispness of the air in the when the leaves change colors in the fall. If we put aside the busyness of our lives for just a bit, we can give our senses a chance to explore and take in the nature surrounding us.
As it turns out, experiencing nature is good for our health! Studies done on forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, have shown many health benefits including increased relaxation, reduced blood pressure, decreased levels of depression, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion, and increases in NK and other anti-cancer proteins, and increase in score for vigor. Whew! That’s a lot of benefits for an enjoyable walk in the woods. There were also studies that compared walks in the forest with walks in urban environments and they found that the urban environment didn’t provide the same benefits.
Unfortunately, the average American and Canadian spends 93% of their time indoors with 87% of the time in buildings and 6% of the time in vehicles…we all need to get out into nature more.
How to practice forest bathing:
- Find a spot, somewhere with a path in the woods that you are allowed to be in with a trail you can follow.
- Put the phone on silent and put it away. Technology is not needed on your journey and you want to be able to be fully present in the nature around you.
- Meander and let your senses be your guide. The point is not to walk the furthest or fastest, but to allow yourself to experience the nature around you even if you don’t walk more than 5 feet in. Forest bathing isn’t a power walk through the woods. Open your senses up…what do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What can you touch?
- If other people go with you, agree to not talk until the end of your time so you can pay full attention to the nature experience.
- If you can’t make it to the woods, look for a different spot of nature nearby.
Studies found as little as 30 minutes immersed in nature a week makes some pretty significant positive changes in health and wellness, so why not give it a try?