Some consider it a form of mindfulness, whereas others look at it as a weekly variation to their fitness regime. Sonia Vadlamani describes how reconnecting with nature through forest bathing can prevent tech-burnout, improve your health and boost creativity.

 

In a world where we’re increasingly connected online and bombarded with information and noise, many of us often feel overwhelmed. Periodically taking time out of our busy schedules and disconnecting from the information overload is always a good idea, and this is the core idea behind forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, as the Japanese call it. 


Despite what 'forest bathing' suggests, you need not necessarily pack your swimwear – forest bathing is really about slowing down and immersing yourself in nature. In case you have time constraints and can’t possibly camp in the woods for an entire day, spending time in a forest or lush green area for two to three hours really can be beneficial. In fact, science says so. 


You don’t have to be a wilderness expert to take up forest bathing – it’s recommended for anyone who wishes to unwind and feel rejuvenated. Personally, forest bathing has worked wonders for me, in terms of well-being as well as career growth. I find that taking some time off the daily grind to relax amidst nature sparks my creativity, thus enabling me to put forward my best work.

 

What exactly is forest bathing?

Most cultures have long understood how spending time amidst nature can benefit one’s well-being and health. The Japanese were quick to embrace this practice, having seen some of the physiological and psychological benefits of forest bathing. 

benefits-of-forest-bathing.jpg
'Bathing' in forests can help to rejuvenate you


Forest bathing essentially entails ‘bathing’ in the surrounding of a forest, wood, or other dense green space. And there’s a lot more to it than just a sweaty hike intended to raise one’s heart-rate: the practice involves awakening the senses of smell, hearing, sight and touch.


Take a small hike as you feel the gentle breeze on your face. Notice the smells of pine, cedar and eucalyptus wafting through the woods. Sit on a rock and pay attention to the sounds of the forest – be it birdsong, the hum of bees, or the gurgle of a brook. It’s all about disconnecting from your inbox or Facebook feed and connecting with your natural surroundings.

 

What are the benefits of forest bathing? 

There's substantial scientific evidence piling up to suggest that spending time in forest surroundings can be rewarding, and that forest bathing isn’t just a hip, Instagram-worthy trend. Here are six research-backed benefits of forest bathing that should convince you to give it a go:

 

1. It could potentially help prevent cancer

A study aimed at exploring the effects of forest bathing on the immune system showed improved Natural Killer (NK) cell activity in the human body. Twelve healthy males aged between 35 and 55 from Tokyo experienced a three-day/two-night forest trip. Their post-trip blood analysis showed enhanced anti-cancer protein levels.


RELATED: How connecting with nature benefits our well-being, health and relationships

 

2. Improved heart health

Forest bathing can reduce hypertension and promote heart health, as pointed out by a study conducted by Kobayashi et al. on 19 middle-aged males with normal-high blood pressure levels. The subjects walked through two forest fields and two urban areas on separate days, and post-walk analysis showed a clear dip in the pulse rates during forest bathing, as compared to their pulse rates post urban-walking.

 

3. Energy boost and improved sleep

The same study by Kobayashi et al. also deduced that forest walks can enhance one’s energy levels, whereas urban walking may reduce one’s energy levels owing to traffic, busy streets and pollution. The phytoncide levels – a class of natural substances emitted by evergreen trees – are much higher in the forests, which have also been linked to improved sleep patterns, as a study by T Kawada et al revealed.

 

“There's substantial scientific evidence to suggest that forest bathing is rewarding – it isn’t just a hip, Instagram-worthy trend.”

 

4. Enhanced mood states

Forest bathing can boost one’s mood and reduce stress levels, as shown by a study conducted on 128 middle-aged and elderly subjects in Taiwan, wherein the mood profiles of the participants were compared before and after a forest bathing excursion. The results indicated a significant dip in the negative mood profiles like tension-anxiety, depression-dejection and anger-hostility, aside from improvement in positive mood traits like vigor-activity and a heightened sense of well-being.

 

5. Prevention against inflammation

Terpenes are organic compounds produced by plants, which can help fight inflammation and prevent depression and anxiety. While there are thousands of varieties of terpenes present in nature, the ones like D-limonene interact with brain cells to regulate their activity. Studies suggest that spending time in nature serves to boost one’s health as we can inhale significant quantities of terpenes present in dense greenery.

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Make physical contact with tree barks shutterstock/Tanja Esser

 

6. Relief from joint pains

Spending quality time in forest areas can prove to be relaxing for those with sore muscles and joint pains, according to a study conducted on a group of swimmers in Japan. The swimmers showed a tendency to be more relaxed post their shinrin-yoku excursion, with fewer instances of muscle aches as compared to a non-athlete control group.

 

Top tips for forest bathing

Unlike your daily commute to work, forest bathing needs to be a peaceful activity where you’re able to appreciate the natural surroundings, be it the komorebi or play of light through tree branches, or the intricate detailing on a tree bark. Here’s how you could make the best of your eco-therapy excursion:

 

Choose an ideal time

For a tranquil experience, choose a quieter time of the day when the woods are more likely to be empty. Avoiding weekends and rearranging your work schedule to free up a weekday would be ideal. Furthermore, early mornings could be perfect for a truly immersive experience.

 

Mandatory digital detox

All electronic devices should be shut off and kept away before you begin. This will help you to truly disconnect from your usual busyness and allow you to focus on nature.
 

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Take time to observe

There’s no need to hurry: wander through the greenery and really absorb all that’s happening around you. Slow down so you can take in the scents, or listen to the fronds of ferns gently swishing in the air.

 

Take joy in the little things

Run your fingers on the striking natural patterns on the tree barks. Observe how dew drops glint in the first rays of sun. Take joy in the scents of the forest.

 

The takeaway: the benefits of forest bathing

If the stress of a hectic life is taking a toll on your physical and emotional well-being, it may be time for you to step back for a short while and take time to unwind with forest bathing. Disengaging from the daily chaos of your life from time to time, and immersing yourself in nature can kickstart your creativity and enhance your mental performance.


For many individuals, this ability to disconnect from work and responsibilities – even for a few hours – may not come naturally. One can explore the guided forest bathing options available around them, as these excursions promise a more structured experience. ●

Main image: shutterstock/Tanja Esser
 

 

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Written by Sonia Vadlamani

bert.jpgFitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.

 


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Guest Michael

Posted

Forests are the guarantee for happiness for me. Even if I never heard of the word forest bathing before, I totally agree that a nice nature bath with fresh air, smooth sounds and here and there some animals is having a healing impact to me (and everyone else I'd say..)

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Tine

Posted


I admit I was misled by the name "forest bathing" at first too... 😄
After reading the article, it all makes sense to me: mindful movement in the forest, really being in the moment with all your senses. 


Though I walk with the dog through the nearby forest regularly, there are usually lots of people and dogs, and I might even listen to a podcast. I need to think about how to combine the sounds, smells, sensations of nature with my mindfulness practice. 
 

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Candy

Posted

I'm all for activities that improve health and well-being! This weekend I'm heading out of the city towards Montseny for hiking and walking. I think it would be the perfect setting for my first real try at forest bathing!

I'm a huge fan of trees and I often hug them shamelessly as I feel called to do so, whether out in a nature or a city park 😇 Now that I've read all the benefits, I'm really looking forward to spending some quiet time 'bathing' in the forest this weekend.

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Lizzie

Posted

Haha @Calvin77 I used to think the same about the term forest bathing - 'like it's a fancy name for a walk in the forest?' But I've had the same revelation; forest bathing is more than just a hike through a green area!

I really enjoy spending time in nature and I can totally agree with all the benefits and positive effects forest bathing has - when you leave your phone at home and really take in what's around you in nature and focus on sounds, smells, and the beauty. It's a great way to disconnect and I really feel how it gives a lot of energy too. 

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Calvin77

Posted

Forest bathing has really benefited me! Before I was like, 'why call it forest bathing? You mean you're just going for a walk in the woods', LOL, but now I know it's more that that: it's really about immersing yourself fully in the forest environment – the sounds, the smells, etc – for at least an hour or more and really soaking it all up. :)🌲

I'm lucky enough to currently be living very close to a huge piece of forest and woodland which hardly anyone uses. It's my go-to place when I need to detox from life: digital, people (!) and just noise in general. The peace I feel there is so powerful and I always feel calmer when I leave and get on with my day. After reading this story I now know that there are real science-backed benefits of practising forest bathing so I will make sure I go more than ever! 

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Guest Thank you

Posted

Thank you for this amazing article. I can feel the energy of the earth once I'm in the forest. I didn't know that it has so many health benefits. 🌲🙏 I'll definetly try out a guided tour. Just looking for some tours :)

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