Before images of a bathing nymph in a forgotten marsh begin invading your thoughts, note that has nothing to do with forest bathing. Well, I guess it does, but not when it comes to "Forest Bathing" in quotations. Much like wabi-sabi, the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku is the medicine of being in the forest. It is thought of as sensory immersion to boost health in any natural habitat that doesn't hold the buzzing energy and vibrations of modern cities. For more information and the benefits, read below:
Eons ago, modern necessities weren't as easily at our fingertips. Our neighbours were fields apart, and a journey to "the city" was more than just a day trip. Arguably, human beings were also less stressed at this time, and the debate whether our advanced technology helps or hinders us is in constant flux. What isn't up for debate is how our modern day stress levels are slowly killing us.
Biophilia is a "genetically determined affinity" that human beings have with the natural world. And before you roll your eyes envisioning a naked cult dancing around some tree, check in with yourself on how refreshed you feel after a weekend at the cottage, or camping in a tent on top of a mountain peak. Why does your soul seem to sing when you watch a sunset on the horizon of the ocean? There is a sunrise and sunset everyday - surely it's nothing special to you by now (sarcasm). So why is it special?
To put this theory into practice, my family and I spent a long weekend down at Lake of the Woods. Driving out through the Canadian Shield is always uplifting. The heavy stone of this Canadian zone is so powerful looking, and as the dark and moody waves of the lake crash against it, they make their own harmonious song. It's hard not to be lulled into a tranquil state. Spending time immersed in any sort of natural world, be that a desert, a mountain range, or on the water actually boosts your body's immunity. But time spent with trees in particular has a bonus effect, hence where Forest Bathing comes in. By spending at least 20 minutes in the forest or surrounded by trees, the organic compound coniferous and deciduous trees release actually lowers your blood pressure and stimulates creativity.
As far as spending 20 minutes surrounded by trees, we spent four days with the tree line right in front of us, and a dainty bayou of water kissing the edges of our cabin. As a writer, my creative juices were on over drive. I cursed myself for not bringing my laptop - so not the point of the trip - because all I could think about were my characters in the book I'm working on.
Forest Bathing affects your body's chemistry which trickles over to affecting your mood. Why are we always refreshed after a walk through the park on our lunch breaks? Why does an afternoon picnic in a prairie field rejuvenate us? Because your body is literally balancing out its inner disproportions and expelling your stress and anxiety. For those suffering with anxiety, a major accompaniment to improving your health would be spending regular time Forest Bathing.
The organic compounds the surrounding trees release help open your senses, making it a very strong place for meditation. The more trees the merrier. Walking barefoot also helps your body absorb these nutrients through the soles of your feet, and connecting you further to pulsating energy found deep inside an undisturbed forest. Feeling the grass between your toes isn't reserved just for kids.
When your body breathes in the infused air, imagine little healing winds coursing through your veins, wiping clean and unclogging all the excess adrenaline and programmed stress your body has been holding. This is why you sleep so well after a day spent outdoors. If you've had an illness or surgery, Forest Bathing can actually speed up your recovery time by increasing your NK cells. These improve healing and immunity. What's more, is that children with ADD or ADHD can actually have improved clarity and focus when they play outside.
It was also the first time my son, Hawksley was actually genuinely happy. Or at least, the only time I could really tell. He's not miserable, but he's not a smiler. He slept better than he ever has - and for a new mom that's some serious stuff. Babies, pets, everyone responds to time spent outdoors, but particularly time spent near or in a forest. Rogue never wanted to be inside. She wanted to be tanning on the peninsula surrounded by water.
Forest therapy is spreading everywhere and has scientific backing to give it weight. If you can carve out regular intervals of 20 minute stays in a forest surrounded by trees - summer or winter - noticeable improvements to your health will begin to hatch. For more information on shinrin-yoku or the practice of forest medicine, visit this link.