FOREST BATHING – The act of immersing oneself in the energy of a forest or woods!
There are various scientific studies that show the benefits of humans connecting to nature for those of you like to see scientific proof, numbers and research. It is fascinating when humans can study and prove with scientific research what we really already knew all along.
One study that stands out particularly is on Environmental Deficit Disorder and the effects on today’s society. Even altering physical dis-ease (I write it is as dis-sase to express that lack of wellness, any physical ailment or discomfort whether minute or unnamed or chronic is a disease that has cause and effect.) Richard Louv, author of “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age” explains how human health may be integrally connected to our relationship with the outdoors. As our lives have become immersed in technology and a fearfulness from 24-hour news cycles, it has caused a whole generation (or two) of people that have gone indoors and become disconnected from nature. We have an unexpected exponential rise in ADD and ADHD type symptoms as well as diseases such as dementia and alzheimer’s, coupled with cancers and other chronic illnesses. In his research of various medical studies he finds an undeniable demonstration of reduced symptoms of ADHD and other conditions in children and adults who spend time in natural settings. The benefits of “green exercise” show that people who take their exercise outdoors feel significantly less depressed, less tense, less angry, and less fatigued than those who stick to the treadmill.
Japanese researchers conducted a study of “shinrin-yoku” which translates roughly to “forest bathing” – the act of immersing oneself in the energy of a forest or woods. Simply walking in the woods and breathing in – both metaphorically and actually – the healing aromas and energies of the trees and foliage, taking in the essence of the forest can actually improve your health with more than just exercise. It was found that the protective odor called phytoncides exuded by the trees contained numerous healing properties. The research showed that when people took time (as little as 30 minutes a day) to sit in the presence of trees and plants their health physically improved with increased circulation, lowered blood pressure and cortisol levels, and astonishingly an increase in white blood cell count. Some of the subjects were undergoing serious medical treatments such as chemotherapy and it was found that when they were wheelchaired into a greenhouse or down a path in the garden their bodies took to the treatments better seeming to accelerate the healing process and reducing their depression and anxiety.
It would be ideal to spend an hour or two deep in the forest bathing in the presence of the natural world, but even a walk through the garden or relaxing in the shade of a tree full of chirping birds will work. Simply enjoy the beauty around you grateful for the visions before you, the shades of green, the shapes of various leaves, the sounds of the squirrels and birds and unseen creatures. Feel the warm sunshine allowing your body to soak up its precious vitamins, appreciating that gentle breeze cooling your skin, playing with your hair. Maybe take off your shoes and feel the soil beneath your feet, appreciating the different feeling from your usual hard-soled shoes. Appreciate what is surrounding you in this moment, not worrying about the past or what lies ahead in the future. Right now you are happy and safe, and healing.
Any time spent appreciating the natural world is soothing to the soul and healing for the earth who yearns for our love. Do you enjoy hiking, rock climbing, skiing, swimming in the lakes and rivers? Wonderful! Incorporate a moment of quiet appreciation and it will raise your soul and please your body. Go for a walk just loving nature and all that is.
“If the tree can clean the air,
it can clean you”
– Qigong Forest