Forest Bathing, also known as Nature Therapy, is a Japanese practice which is comprised of performing guided tasks and exercises while one is in an outdoor surrounding, usually a forest. The Japanese term for this concept is Shinrin-yoku and it was developed in Japan back in the 80s.
Nowadays, it has become a crucial part of the healing and preventive care in Japanese medicine. Japanese and South Korean scientific literature is abundant in works denoting the positive effects from spending time surrounded by nature. Since then on, the popularity of Forest Bathing has been spreading all over the world, not just in Japan.
The Research on Nature Therapy
In the period between 2004 and 2012, Japan spent approximately $4 million dollars for studies on the physiological and psychological impact of Forest Bathing.
The results led to the designation of 48 therapy trails. Namely, a professor from Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Qing Li, found an increase in NK (human natural killer cells) cell activity in the participants during the week after a visit to a forest and these positive effects pertained a month following each weekend spent in nature. He further explained that is a result of phytoncide, an essential oil that is present in plants, some veggies and fruits, and wood, and it is released as a protection from insects and germs. Its inhalation betters the functioning of our immunity and this is also the main reason why the air in nature is fresher and of a higher quality.
Another experiment, done by Chiba University in Japan, came to the conclusion that being in nature, when compared with city surroundings, reduces the cortisol secretion and pulse rate, regulates the blood pressure, improves the parasympathetic nerve activity, and lowers the sympathetic one. Trees, greenery, and fresh air were also found to have a beneficial effect on one’s psyche; the participants experienced higher enthusiasm and less bitterness and depressive mood.
The Positive Effects of Forest Bathing
- Improved sleep
- Higher levels of energy
- Reduction in inflammation
- Purer skin
- Minimized risk of heart attack
- Relief for sore muscles
- Prevention of diabetes and obesity
- Stronger immune cells
How to Forest Bathe the Right Way?
Knowing that you can significantly benefit from Forest Bathing on many different levels will do you no good if you do not know how to perform it. In Japanese forests, the trees meant for Forest Bathing are usually conifers; however, other trees are favorable too. To begin, you need to take a trip to the nearest or a more remote forest. Besides walking, you should also lie down on the ground, meditate, listen to music, collect edibles, and gaze at the greenery.
There are also certified guides and programs offered by the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy that can help you learn to take in the nature surroundings by using all of your senses and being more mindful. These guides are led by certified forest guides who go through a 6-month training period followed by a set of assignments of 6 months. Even though studies indicate that one can benefit from Nature Therapy if done every 1 to 4 weeks, the more you can do it, the better. What is decisive for a quality time spent outdoors is to find a place that has a comfy temperature, low amount of noise and distractions, and of course, applying a good bug repellent.
Earthing in Combination with Forest Bathing
Similarly to the warmth and vitamin D that we receive from the sun, the Earth under our feet provides us with food and water and a surface to walk on, sit, play, stand, and build. But, it offers another vital element that most of us are unaware of- an eternal, natural energy, research points out.
This connection to the Earth can be established by walking barefoot on sand, dirt, rock, or grass and it is beneficial for our health because free electrons that have antioxidants enter the body and fight off surplus free radicals that can trigger inflammation and illnesses. Same as humans and all other living things on the planet are, the Earth is a conductor of free electrons. Walking barefoot while forest bathing will better your overall well-being, help you improve your sleeping patterns, regulate the biological rhythm of your body, and reduce pain.
What Does “Nature Deficit Disorder” Mean?
Even though this is not a recognized condition by conventional medicine, more and more people are realizing nature’s nourishing effect on their well-being and health. As noted by Dr. Ross Cameron from Sheffield University, this “disorder” is probably a symptom of the busy lifestyles we lead today.
Sadly, people are spending less time outdoors and are living in cities with a scarce amount of greenery and polluted air and are “enslaved” by modern technology. This issue is especially problematic in children who are practically alienated from nature by spending more time in front of their computers and tablets instead of playing and socializing outside. As a consequence, they are deprived of benefits like sharp vision, strong social skills, higher attention span, less stress, and high levels of vitamin D.
This modern-day issue is just one more evidence (among many other) that we are all part of nature and when we divide from it, it is perfectly clear to be negatively affected, asserts Clemens Arvay, an Austrian biologist. Therefore, it is always a good decision to immerse in nature and even better if you do this together with your children.