Until recently, humans spent most of their time in nature. Today, we spend much of our time in urban areas, which has a massive impact on our physical and mental health. Research has shown that spending time in nature has many health benefits.
One of the ways we can immerse ourselves in nature is through a type of therapy known as ecotherapy. There are several types of ecotherapy, including forest bathing, a traditional Japanese practice that has been around since 1982. Forest bathing involves spending time in a forest environment and practicing mindfulness by using the five senses.
There are several physical health benefits of forest bathing. Some of these benefits include:
· Improved cardiovascular function
· Improved metabolic markers, such as triglyceride levels
· Decreased stress response and hormones including adrenaline and cortisol
· Decrease immune activation
· Improved relaxation in the brain
· Increase in antioxidant levels
· Improved health in individuals with hypertension
Additionally, forest bathing can improve mental health. Studies show that there are several mental health benefits from forest bathing. These benefits include:
· Improved sleep: There is a study that shows that 2 hours of walking in the forest improves the quality of sleep, time spent asleep, and depth of sleep.
· Enhanced emotional well-being: Forest bathing can increase happiness and feelings of joy and decrease depression and negative emotional states.
· Managing symptoms of mental health disorders and illnesses: A study shows that a 45-minute walk can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and anger-hostility.
· Reduction in stress: Forest bathing can reduce the production of cortisol and promotes relaxation.
· Improved mental state in those with alcohol use disorder: Studies have shown significant improvement in depression in those with alcohol use disorder.
There are 6 evidence-based tips that can help you experience the benefits of forest bathing:
1. Choose a forest environment and get outside of the city.
2. Spend time in nature year-round. Each season will have unique benefits. Forest bathing in late spring and summer shows enhanced immune function. While being exposed to snow in the winter leads to psychological relaxation afterwards.
3. Include mindfulness and focus your awareness on the present moment.
4-5. Go outside in the early morning and early afternoon and make sure you spend at least 2 hours outside each week.
6. Lastly, if you cannot find the time or do not have a forest around you, you can view nature videos virtually. There is a study that shows nature videos promote relaxation.
The traditional Japanese practice of forest bathing can have a significant impact on your health and mental well-being. Whether you can spend time outside or only view nature virtually, you will experience the health benefits when you take time immersing yourself in nature.
Inspired By: Fullscript Forest Bathing