Refresh your Mind and Heal your Body with Forest Bathing
Daily life in the modern world is taxing. Whether you live in a city or in the country, whether you work remotely or commute far, the intensity of a day-to-day existence surrounded by stresses, constant news cycles and general screen-oversaturation can and does take a toll on our bodies and minds.
In city environments, pollution, noise and the overall hustle and bustle can lead to sleeplessness, anxiety and other serious ailments; even outside of cities, sedentary jobs or prolonged periods indoors or behind the wheel can provoke equally dangerous health issues.
While Western medicine has all sorts of ready-made cures and pills that certainly can help alleviate these ills, Japanese researchers in recent years have scientifically re-discovered a far simpler, far older treatment. It’s called Shinrin-Yoku: literally forest bathing.
Forest bathing is exactly what it sounds like: you simply immerse yourself in the natural healing powers of the woods to set your mind at rest, relax and heal your body, and recharge your immune system.
To be clear, this does not mean that you must roll around the forest floor to experience this natural benefit—“bathing” here just means to stroll unbothered through the trees, along a path or off of it, and let the sounds, smells and sights of the natural world surround and envelop you. Not unlike meditation, letting yourself get immersed in the forest acts as a reprieve from the stresses of daily life: you can focus instead on your breathing, on the way the tree-scented air feels and tastes in your nose and on your tongue, on the slow creak the tall trunks make as they sway in the wind.
The most obvious health benefits of this sort of forest retreat are psychological. Frequent nature walks have been linked to lower levels of depression, anxiety, and insomnia, as well as to heightened levels of self-esteem, motivation, and concentration.
Many folks also get significant physiological benefits from time spent forest bathing. Studies have found that higher counts of cancer killing cells, lower blood pressure and better blood sugar control are all associated with more woods walking. Of course, much of this has to do with the added exercise you get from going for frequent walks; but the beauty of forest bathing is it hardly feels like exercise. With the emphasis placed on the sensory experience of being among the trees and the ferns, listening to the birds and the bullfrogs, your mind is able to let go of any pain or tension built up in your body.
Finally, forest bathing is perhaps the most accessible and affordable medical treatment there is. Any patch of woods will do, so long as you can walk unbothered for as long as you want or need. Simply lace up your sneakers and set about discovering your favorite footpaths. If you keep it up, and allow forest bathing to become a part of your regular health routine, it can work wonders for your mind, body and spirit—alleviating pains you perhaps didn’t know you had, and freeing up your mind to focus on what really matters.