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Forest Bathing Melds Nature With Mindfulness To Improve Health

6 minute read

It is fair to say that stress is an everyday part of life. Everyone experiences some form of stress daily, be it work-related, school-related, family matters or financial. A little stress can be handled and in fact is actually good for us; helps keep us on our toes and ready for anything.

However, stress that is not released or dealt with can build up and overtime too much can be a bad thing. Over exposure to stressful stimuli can damage your brain, your heart and overall well-being. So, it is better to address it on a regular basis both for your mental and physical health.

The typical recommendations for relieving stress are diet changes, yoga and meditation. Maybe you have tried these and they don't work for you. Maybe you are bored with the usual routines and want a new form of relief. Whatever your reason, there is a new method in town and it may be right up your alley.

The great outdoors has always been a standard retreat when it comes to overcoming stress and anxiety. A breath of fresh air always clears your head and puts things in perspective. Imagine taking that breath to a whole new level and a whole new world of stress relief.

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It may sound odd, but the idea behind forest bathing is proven and a guaranteed way to re-focus your mind and get rid of stress. Japan long ago adopted the concept of forest bathing as part of its national health program. In fact, this method has been used to let people unplug from the world long before there were smartphones and tablets to unplug from.

The central point is to reconnect people with nature in the simplest way possible. More than just a breath of fresh air, you take in all of nature around you. It is as simple as it sounds; you go into the woods, breathe deeply and enjoy the peace.

Imagine walking down a paved or beaten path, tress surrounding you and a beautiful sky overhead. There is noise, but it is the subtle sounds of nature and not the congested drone of urban life. Every step you take brings new sounds to life. You start to really look at the trees and realize there are so many shades of green. You don't remember seeing those in your crayon box as a kid. The key is to just wander; there is no specified path or direction. You just go where nature guides you.

You find a clearing and place a blanket on the ground. Lying face up, you start to take in everything around you; the feeling of the ground against your back, the way the trees sway, how the light changes as it comes through the leaves. In no time at all, you are so involved in your surroundings, any stress you were holding on to has melted away. You start to breathe deeper and slower naturally and you didn't even have to count breaths like you do with meditation. You are at ease, you are at peace and the forest soothes you.

Health Benefits of Forest Bathing

Forest breathing would not be popular if there wasn't a genuine need for it.  People are aware of how stressful life can be but convenience factors push them to try unhealthier methods of relief.  Smoking or a few glasses of wine are often cited as remedies at the end of a stressful day.  Are these really helping or simply distracting you? If it's distraction you need then a trip outdoors will benefit your health more than any nicotine fix or glass of wine.  

The truth is that those options only mask the problem and do not adequately allow you to release the stress.  This means, stress accumulates making it more dangerous to your overall mental and physical health.

♦ Stress has been linked to the development of certain diseases including cancer, lung disease, cirrhosis and even thoughts of suicide.

♦ The negative impact on hormones causes you to lose interest in sex and relationships.

♦ Stress causes people to grind their teeth and when done during the night unconsciously, serious gum and teeth problems can result.

♦ Stress physically causes damage to your heart muscles by increasing cortisol, the stress hormone. This constricts blood vessels which impact blood flow and great strain is placed on your heart.

♦ People tend to eat more when they are stressed which contributes to weight gain.

♦ Chronic stress contributes to premature aging, which means wrinkles appear sooner on the outside, and vital organs start deteriorating faster on the inside.

♦ The high demands of stress on the body weaken your immune system, which puts you at higher risk for colds as well as other infections.

♦ Better sleep

The Bottom Line

You don't necessarily need a forest because the method is not centered on trees specifically. You can forest bathe at the beach or in a national park. The idea is to get away from urban life and return to nature at its most basic form.

Centering yourself in nature helps you to regain focus of the most basic and beautiful things in life. We get so caught up in our world that we forget the beauty out there. The documented improvements to health include lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose levels fewer stress hormones and better concentration. Nature provides a natural healing environment and the perfect distraction which is why you need to start bathing outdoors.

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  1. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/17/536676954/forest-bathing-a-retreat-to-nature-can-boost-immunity-and-mood
  2. https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20170801/forest-bathing-harnesses-nature-to-boost-health
  3. http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html
  4. http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/10/health/forest-bathing/index.html
  5. https://cfpub.epa.gov/roe/chapter/air/indoorair.cfm
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28814305
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341
  8. https://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/