If you’re concerned about your health give forest bathing a try
There are many ways to relieve stress, but you might not know about a practice called forest bathing, spending time in the woods. Forest bathing is a Japanese practice that can reduce stress and improve your overall health. It’s also known as shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bathing.”
Forest bathing involves slowly walking through the forest, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells around you, and reflecting on what you see. It’s not just about the beauty of nature. There are real health benefits from spending time in a forest. The idea behind forest bathing is that spending time in nature relaxes your body and mind and gives you a greater sense of well-being. But research shows forest bathing may benefit your health in other ways.
Forest Bathing May Improve Immune Function
Your immune system is your best defense against foreign invaders, including viruses, fungi, and bacteria. According to research, forest bathing may boost your immune function. A study published in the journal Oncotarget found that spending five days in the forest boosted natural killer cells, those that protect against viruses. The elevation in natural killer cells persisted for at least a week after the forest trips. Plus, you absorb vitamin D from sun exposure, which is also important for a healthy immune system.
Forest Bathing May Alleviate Depression and Anxiety
The practice of forest bathing is based on a Japanese ritual called shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bathing.” It’s also referred to as “forest therapy” or simply “being in nature.” The idea behind it is that being surrounded by nature positively affects your health and well-being. Studies show spending time outside can improve your mood, reduce stress and anxiety levels, and help you sleep better at night.
One of the most common benefits of forest bathing is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. A meta-analysis, an analysis of multiple studies, found that forest bathing significantly lowered cortisol, a stress hormone. Reducing cortisol has benefits for both mental and physical health.
Another study found that forest bathing led to less depression and mood improvements. What’s more incredible is that these results were achieved without medication or psychotherapy. You can even use forest time to meditate or practice mindfulness.
Time in the Forest May Lower Blood Pressure
Being in nature is good for you, and the benefits are wide-ranging. Here are some ways that forest bathing can improve your health:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower stress levels
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Improve immune function
- Enhance sleep quality
- Reboot your brain (as discussed below)
Forest Bathing is Beneficial for Your Brain
Getting outdoors in a green environment helps clear your mind. It’s like a reboot for your brain. Your mind shifts to nature, the sound of birds singing and tree branches blowing in the wind. Your senses shift away from problems and toward being in the moment. When you return, your mind is more relaxed. You feel calmer and have a fresh perspective. Excursions into nature and the forest can boost your motivation and make you more productive. Far from being a time waster, it can help you accomplish more during the time you work.
Forest Bathing Helps Set Your Internal Biological Clock
Research has shown that forest bathing helps set your internal biological clock by affecting a tiny gland in your brain called the pineal gland. The pineal gland is sensitive to light and darkness, so when you’re exposed to sunlight during the day and darkness at night, it sets your body clock accordingly. This can be disrupted by artificial lights at night or working long hours with no breaks. Forest bathing helps reset your biological clock by letting you experience natural light while relaxing in nature. This helps optimize the release of hormones that affect your health, including ones that control blood sugar and body weight.
Whether you’re looking for a way to relax, get exercise or enjoy the great outdoors, forest bathing is a way to unwind and even improve your health. It is not a cure-all for all your problems, but it can help you “reboot,” improve your mood, feel calmer, and sleep better. If you’re concerned about your health or want to improve your sense of well-being, give forest bathing a try!