Forest Bathing: Connecting to the Beauty of Nature
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” – John Muir
So, what is Forest Bathing, you might ask? What it is not is a trek through Yosemite or a ten-mile run through Central Park. No maps are involved, no hiking poles, compasses or Park Rangers. Forest bathing is not about physical exercise or hiking; instead, it focuses on slowing down, being present and engaging with nature through the senses. And although bathing suggests water, you don’t need a bathing suit even though your walk might include a waterfall or a dip in an inviting pool of water.
Forest bathing, also known as shin-rin yoku, is a practice that originated in Japan
and involves immersing oneself in a natural forest environment as a way to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being. Part mindfulness, part child’s play, it embodies the sensory experience of observing the sights, sounds, and smells of natural surroundings. In a word, it is a love note to Mother Nature and an evidence based intervention to combat many of the maladies that are associated with modern life.
My first experience with “forest bathing” was in connection with “Spirituality Week.” recently introduced to NYC by the former CEO of the Open Center, Ross Guttler. Participating in this event was Iris Rosin, CEO/Founder of Nature Time, who led a guided walk-through Central Park. During this walk, we traversed serene paths and picturesque trails, observing the details of plants, trees, fractal structures and water elements. Along the way, the group was encouraged to pick up leaves, feel the moss, “hug” the trees, and to luxuriate in the beauty of the park. Mindful walking, Nature meditation, and deep breathing exercises were included in the experience, ending with a traditional Nature Tea, which allowed us to connect with one another and to Mother Earth. This walk, a first-time experience, did indeed satisfy that longing to “disconnect” from the smart phone and the “noise” of City life and to truly reconnect with myself, to others, and to the natural world.
The Journey of Forest Bathing: Reconnection
Forest Bathing has been described as a journey and the journey of reconnection starts with self-awareness. The call to return to Nature – your true Nature – comes from deep inside and often manifests in the chaos of life before one really begins to pay attention.
The impact of this chaos can impact on one’s health and well-being while the message of Forest Bathing begs that one slow down and hear the clarion call before it intensifies.
What happens during a Forest Bath can mirror what is happening in your life.
As we begin to see the beauty in all parts of the natural life cycle, one can also begin to see the beauty in our own lives. Forest bathing can help you de-stress and come in closer harmony with the natural world. In Norway, this philosophy of passion for nature is known as friluftsliv which translates to “open-air Living”, a ifestyle that connotes the freedom of being in Nature.
For example, it is said that gathering the energy from the morning sun, expressing gratitude for all those things that come from the Earth and enjoying the tranquil symphony of Nature, can strengthen your connection to the Earth and help to shift your perspective. You may find that you detach from those things that no longer serve you, while connecting to the people, places and opportunities that feel natural, even if you can’t articulate the reason.
This is the promise of Forest Bathing.
Earth’s Medicine: Health Benefits of Forest Bathing
1) Stress Reduction – In clinical studies, it has been shown that 2 hrs. of the sounds of nature daily. Reduces stress hormones up to 800% and activates 500-600 DNA segments known to be responsible for healing and repairing the body.
2) Improved Mental Health – Forest bathing has a positive impact on anxiety, depression, and mood disorders and can enhance overall psychological well-being.
3) Boosted Immune System – Phytoncides, the natural oils released by trees and plants, have been found to enhance the activity of natural killer (NK) cells in the body. These cells play a vital role in fighting viruses and cancer cells, thus boosting the immune system.
4) Increased Energy and Vitality – Spending time in Nature, especially in lush green surroundings, can provide a natural energy boost. Forest bathing helps reduce fatigue, increase vitality, and improve overall feelings of vigor.
5) Increased Cardiovascular Health– Being in Nature has been associated with reduced blood pressure, heart rate and increased cardiovascular function.
6) Enhanced Sleep Quality – Exposure to natural environments, such as forests, can improve sleep quality. Fresh air, the calming ambiance, and absence of electronic devices contribute to better sleep patterns and increased feelings of restfulness.
7) Better Cognitive Function – Spending time in Nature has been linked to improved cognitive function, including enhanced attention, creativity, and problem-solving abilities…. providing a break from the stimulation of urban environments, allowing the mind to recharge.
8) Increased Mindfulness – Forest Bathing encourages being fully present in the moment. It cultivates a sense of connection with Nature, allowing individuals to disconnect from technology and experience a heightened sense of awareness.
9) Respiratory Health Benefits – Aside from an oxygen chamber, breathing deeply in fresh air is one of the best ways to oxygenate the blood. Forests often have cleaner air with higher oxygen levels and lower levels of pollutants compared to urban areas.
NOTE: While Forest Bathing offers numerous health benefits, it is viewed as a complimentary practice to traditional medical care and should not replace medical treatments prescribed by healthcare professionals.
For further information about Iris Rosin, Biophilic Lifestylist and CEO/Founder of Nature Time, see www.irisrosin.com and www.naturetimeapp.com, which is a web-based guide. Nature Time services include Nature Therapy, Social Connection Walks and Workshops on Biophilic Wellness.
Anne brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as The Three Tomatoes’ Beauty, Health and Wellness Editor. As a champion of health and well-being for all, she is the Founder/Publisher of GLOW Beauty, Health and Wellness magazine; previous Founder of Castle Connolly Graduate Medical Publishing, publishing educational review manuals for doctors to pass their board exams in 15 different medical specialties and co-Founder of MDPublish.com, publishing and marketing books for health professionals. A winner of the SMART CEO award for "entrepreneurial spirit with a sense of give back to the community," Anne sits on many Boards for women's health, with a particular passion for Veterans and her current
role as Special Advisor to Operation Warrior Shield, "healing their hidden wounds". www.operationwarriorshield.com.