Forest Bathing and Why You Should Do It

It was not so long ago that one could step out of their ‘home’ and be greeted by bird song or a blossom of flowers, if not the smell of grass at the very least. Today, cities are cold, sterile, disconnected environments that by their very design sever the ancient relationship between (wo)man and nature. The effect such kind of ‘urbanization’ has on our wellbeing is daunting and not fully known. Neither social media nor 4G can bring back the quality of connections we once shared. The constant state of accelerated motion that our bodies and minds are in, places us in a losing battle against our own wellbeing.

Ever been to a forest and just felt good? Well, forest bathing is, quite simply, just that. The art and science of de-stressing and relaxation achieved by visiting, walking through and/or experiencing – wholly – a living forest environment. By itself, the idea is far from new. Societies, tribes and cultures across the world forest bathed quite naturally, as a part and parcel of their lifestyle, and without needing to define or term it. But it was in Japan in the early 1980’s that the concept of ‘forest bathing’ took flight, scientifically speaking, and the Japanese call it ‘Shinrin-yoku’.

Ever since, scientists all over the world have been continuing to discover the potentially boundless effects that forests exert on one’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Today, ‘forest medicine’ is a fast-evolving, dynamic field of research with vast applications for human health, emerging as an unparalleled strategy in preventive medicine.

We know that stress is a determining factor in hundreds of long- and short-term health issues (heart disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, skin conditions, among many others) that we face. Forest bathing, most effectively, nips the problem in the bud by helping one eliminate or mitigate stress altogether and thereby improving quality of life.

Trees release compounds by virtue of simply living. Inhaling of these antimicrobial volatile organic substances (called phytoncides) are very good for our health.

Research has proved that forest bathing results in the following beneficial health effects:

  1. Eliminates stress
  2. Lower concentrations of cortisol (meaning the body’s stress-response is being triggered less, causing fewer stress hormones to be released)
  3. Lower pulse rate
  4. Reduced blood pressure
  5. Enhanced para-sympathetic nerve activity
  6. Lower sympathetic nerve activity
  7. Boosts immune system functioning
  8. Mood stabilization and improvement
  9. Strengthens concentration, focus and attention span
  10. Tackles ADHD
  11. Increases the count of Natural Killer cells
  12. Enhanced rate of recovery from illness or surgery
  13. Enhanced quality of sleep
  14. Enhanced efficiency and productivity.

Practicing forest bathing over time can help you:

  1. Achieve higher energy levels
  2. Build a deeper, clearer intuition and mental resolve
  3. Help in effective communication and capacity to communicate with nature
  4. Enhance the flow of life force
  5. Result in deeper, richer relationships
  6. Find happiness on a long-term basis.

As science has concurred, and in no uncertain terms proven, forest bathing and time spent in a living forest benefits your health. It is time to unplug, step out and r-connect with our old friend, Mama Nature; for the sake of long life and healthy living.

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An ambidextrous thinker, I am nourished by the arts and activism. Passion keeps me on my feet, moving, and living as (comfortably) close to the edge as is possible. From performing gypsy street theater to organizing music festivals, creative activism to travel writing, wildlife exploration and more recently developing an all-India module to teach snake safety – I have evolved with every experience. I believe, fully, in the power of the pen and pursue writing that shapes perspective and builds awareness on essential issues (that we can directly effect, and are directly affected by). I also believe, fully, that precise punctuation, good grammar, (un)avoidable alliterations and a bulletproof humor go a long way. I travel to stay sane, stalk birds in their natural habitat for fun, carefully avoid routine and have been known to burst into song, in good rhyme but for no reason. I am a dreamer and a do-er, a poet and a planner. Writing is the only way I know to understand.