The Benefits of Forest Bathing

The Japanese tradition of Shinrin-Yoku otherwise called forest bathing has inspired the modern concept of walking in a forest as a way to improve mood and overall health and well-being.

Several studies over the past decade have shown that being in a forest can lead to a relaxed and healthy well-being, both physically and mentally. It can even reduce blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boost the immune system.

The Benefits of Forest Bathing

Why is it good to walk in nature?

New research suggests that a brief walk through the forest reduces anxiety:

  • Walking through the forest can reduce anxiety and negative feelings such as anger and fatigue.
  • Forest walking promotes relaxation.
  • Forest therapy may have antidepressant effects.

Walking in nature has many proven benefits for our mental and physical well-being. It can help our physical body, but it also improves our cognition, changes our brain and help us foster mindfulness and gratitude.

Is walking in the forest good for you?

Being around trees reduces stress, can lower blood pressure and improve mood. Past studies show that both exercising in forests, and just sitting looking at trees, can reduce blood pressure as well as the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

Forest Walking Promotes Relaxation

Researchers looked at heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood pressure and found that forest therapy activates the relaxation response area of the nervous system, specifically the parasympathetic nervous system.

Forest therapy could have antidepressant effects

Small studies have found that forest therapy can improve mood and reduce depressive symptoms, including a study done on children. Forest walking can be especially useful since it combines mindfulness in nature with exercise, both of which are known to reduce depressive symptoms.

You don’t have to walk for a long period in the forest order to reap the benefits of forest therapy. Even a brief walk in the forest for 10 to 20 minutes can result in a better state of mind. Research found that as little as 15 minutes of walking in the forest can make a big difference in putting your body and mind at ease.

Exposure to forests boosts our immune system 

While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects.

Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities that help plants fight disease. When people breathe in those chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells known to prevent illness.

Green spaces in urban areas can be just as important as rural forests 

Most of our modern civilization lives in suburban or urban areas and may not have access to a traditional rural forest. Gardens, parks and street trees make up what’s known as an urban or community forest. Those pockets of green space are very important because they’re the sources of daily access to trees for urban areas.

Final Thoughts

Although most people now live in urban or suburban environments, most of our evolutionary history we’ve lived in nature. Our physiological development is still adapted to nature.

Our fast-paced lifestyles today put us in an over-stimulated state that creates stress. Living in artificial environments denies us the exposure to the healing properties nature can bring. Going back to nature is actually like a homecoming for our species.

The benefits of exposure to nature are real and measurable. And in an increasingly distracting and distracted world, they’re more important now than ever.

Read More:

Japan Travel – Forest bathing

Time – Forest Bathing

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