Imagine being surrounded by tall trees, the sound of rustling leaves, and a tranquil creek nearby. You take a deep breath and feel the chill of the forest on your skin as you breathe in the clean, crisp air. As you walk deeper into the forest, you start to notice the subtle changes in the environment around you. The colors become more vibrant, the scents more intense, and the sounds more distinct.
You start to experience a sensation of serenity and relaxation as you continue with your walk. Your daily anxieties seem to disappear, and a strong sense of connection to nature takes their place. You begin to take in the finer features of the forest, such as the way the sun shines through the leaves, the way the birds fly from one tree to another, and how the wind sways the branches.
The idea described above is referred to as forest bathing. It is a practice that originated in Japan in the 1980s where they call it Shinrin-yoku. It entails taking part in sensory immersion while spending time in a forest or other natural setting. Forest bathing aims to alleviate stress and promote relaxation by connecting with nature and allowing the natural surroundings to have a positive effect on mental and physical health.
Forest bathing typically involves taking leisurely, contemplative strolls around a forest, pausing sometimes to take in the scenery and breathe in the clean air. In order to properly appreciate and connect with the natural world, the practice emphasizes the value of employing all of your senses. For example, you should listen to bird sounds, feel the breeze on your skin, and inhale the scents of the forest.
Forest bathing is known to have profound benefits, such as:
- Reducing stress levels by decreasing the release of cortisol hormone (a stress hormone).
- Having a positive impact on mood ultimately reduces anxiety and depression.
- Improving brain functions by promoting better cognitive functions (such as focus, attention span, and memory)
- Boosting a weakened immune system by upregulating the activity of natural killer cells.
- Lowering blood pressure that in turn helps in reducing the incidence of other cardiovascular problems, such as stroke and heart attack.
Juggling between work, family, and social obligations can be quite overwhelming and it can be hard to relax and find time to recharge. So, the next time you need a break from the stresses of daily life, consider taking a walk in the woods and practicing forest bathing.