What is forest bathing and how can it benefit you
by Freya • 3 minutes read
Last updated: 23 Jun, 2022
Forest bathing or forest therapy, is a process of relaxation, it is the method of being calm and quiet in an area of trees and observing the nature around you as you breathe deeply.
This practice originated in Japan, where it is known as shinrin yoku.
It’s known to be an effective way of helping both adults and children to improve their wellbeing and reduce stress.
The Japanese adopted this style of ecotherapy soon after it came to light in the 80’s. Research was then taken out in the 90’s to discover its benefits.
Due to the extensive research taken out in Japan, both Japan and South Korea prescribe forest bathing therapy sessions on their health service.
One fairly recent study, the UK’s first research paper into the benefits of Forest Bathing, showed that there were improvements in positive emotions, mood disturbance, rumination, nature connection and compassion. 57% of those that participated had an increase in heart rate variability.
Dr Qing Li, who has done an immense amount of research on the topic claims that research shows 50% of the health benefits we receive from Forest Bathing comes from the chemistry of the air.
The oxygen levels in a forest are higher than somewhere more urban, which could play a part in this reasoning, as well as the chemicals that trees release into the forest atmosphere to right of diseases, these can boost our immune system.
Research has shown there are a range of other benefits from Forest Bathing, including:
Decrease in depression
Improves cardiovascular health
Improves pain threshold
Boosts immune system
Reduces blood pressure
Improves concentration and memory
Can help prevent cancer
Spending time in nature has so many huge benefits, whether that is from Forest Bathing or a walk on the beach. Practicing Forest Bathing allows you to connect with nature and the natural world, improving your mental health along with its other range of positive effects.
Forestry England have created a guide to help beginners, this includes the following tips:
Turn off your device to give you the best chance of relaxing and are able to enjoy a sensory forest-based experience.
Move slowly when walking in the forest so you can see and feel more
Take long breaths deep into the abdomen. Extending the exhalation of air to twice the length of the inhalation sends a message to the body that it can relax.
Stop, stand or sit, smell what’s around you to get a true understanding of your surroundings.
Take in your surroundings using all of your senses, consider how the forest makes you feel by being observant.
Sit quietly, try to avoid thinking about your daily life.
Keep your eyes open. Studies have shown that the colours blue and green are the most relaxing, which you can find plenty of in the nature.
Stay as long as you can, two hours is recommended. The amount of time you spend forest bathing will conclude the benefits you receive.
Depending on where you are, there could be several forest places for you to visit or none. But don’t fear it's as simple as googling the closest woodland to you!If you’re from the UK, you can use this tool to find some amazing forests nearby or far - Forest search
- New research compares forest bathing and mindfulness - https://tfb.institute/scientific-research/#:~:text=Forest%20Bathing%2B%20is%20peer%2Dreviewed&text=The%20paper%20reports%20there%20were,with%20an%20established%20wellbeing%20intervention.
- Dr Qing Li ,‘Shinrin-yoku, The Art and Science of Forest-Bathing’ -
- Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28788101/
- The secret to mindful travel? A walk in the woods - https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/forest-bathing-nature-walk-health
- The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19568835/
- How to start forest bathing - https://www.forestryengland.uk/blog/forest-bathing
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