Good for body and mind: forest baths

Forrest Lake

Relax mind and body with a forest bath

It is ingrained in our genes that we feel good in nature and that is also why forest bathing is so healthy. We long to reconnect with greenery. Since most people live in an urban environment, it is good to spend time in what is known as forest bathing. This involves immersing yourself in the forest with a meditative mindset. By just “being there” you come to rest physically and mentally. Forest bathing helps reconnect with nature and brings benefits to your health.

How do you do forest bathing?

We have been living in cities for several centuries and have literally and figuratively created a distance between ourselves and nature. Especially in these modern times, we surround ourselves more and more with electronics, concrete and asphalt. Unfortunately, this can cause health problems. In English, this is called “Nature deficit disorder.” So people then have a shortage of nature. Maybe this sounds floaty, but being in a natural environment is relaxing and soothing. This is where forest bathing comes in.

The phenomenon of forest bathing was conceived in Japan, but now more and more people have heard of it here as well. In Japan, you can take forest baths under supervision; it is used for complaints due to stress, depression, feelings of futility and lack of inspiration. But fortunately, you can do forest bathing yourself and enjoy the benefits. Reconnecting with nature can help you get back in better shape mentally and physically.

But what exactly is forest bathing? It is really something different than just going for a walk in the woods. Forest bathing is a mindful activity, even meditative. You go to the woods (or another natural setting), then you really take the time to be there. So you’re not doing it to get more exercise, be sporty or get from A to B. You take the time to immerse yourself in nature. So you can sit or lie down, or walk around very quietly. In doing so, you also employ all your senses. You smell flowers, you touch the ground, you feel the wind on your face. The idea is to become absorbed in this moment and let go of all your daily worries.

What are the benefits of forest bathing?

The fact that forest bathing is good for health is evidenced by the fact that the Japanese government actively promotes this form of being in nature. It appears that forest bathing can help reduce stress, have a positive effect on blood pressure and support the immune system. These are some examples of forest baths:

forest pool

1. Resistance support.

Trees and plants in a forest produce substances called phytoncides. These phytoncides are essential oils that help protect trees and plants from potential enemies, such as insects, animals and pathogens. When you go for a walk in the woods, you also breathe in these essential oils. It appears that this may have health benefits. Phytoncides work antimicrobially and they prompt our bodies to produce more natural killer (NK) cells. So this makes your resistance stronger, because these cells help protect you from infections and even cancer. It turns out that people who regularly took forest baths had more and more active NK cells in their blood.

2. Being mindful is relaxing

As mentioned, forest bathing is an exercise in mindfulness. Mindfulness is a very good technique for better relaxation and so forest bathing has a similar effect. Forest bathing encourages you to be totally in the now. You are fully present, which means you are not distracted by messages on your smartphone, nor by worry, fretting or your own thoughts.

During forest bathing, you focus on your surroundings and on your own body. The beauty is that when you are doing this, you benefit from mindfulness and the peace of nature. Forest bathing gives you the opportunity to recharge for a while. It has a very relaxing effect on both body and mind.

3. A better mood

Forest bathing also appears to have a positive effect on mood. A 2019 survey included 155 participants. More than a third of them suffered from depression. Before forest bathing, they were given a test that showed they scored high on depressive tendencies. After forest bathing, the test was administered again. Those who were depressed scored much better, and for some there was no difference even observable from those who were not depressed. For a variety of negative emotions and moods, forest baths can potentially bring relief. Think depression, anxiety, sadness, anger or frustration.

4. Forest baths for stress

That walking in the woods is good for stress, many people know. But being in the woods combined with mindfulness (i.e., forest bathing) enhances this effect. Studies have been done that show forest bathing is very effective. People who regularly engage in forest bathing have been found to have fewer stress hormones in their blood. If you suffer from chronic stress, it is therefore advisable to go into the woods as often as possible for a calming forest bath.


Feeling better with forest bathing

Many people suffer from stress and the fact that we have created so much distance between ourselves and nature. Forest bathing can help you get back into your good graces. It is a wonderful activity that brings benefits on both a mental and physical level. Microdosing is another natural remedy that can be used for symptoms of stress and gloom. It can help make you more resilient to stress and can have a positive effect on mood. It is therefore a good idea to combine forest baths with microdosing.

Allow yourself that relaxation and feeling of well-being through forest bathing. You don’t have to go to a nature reserve, a big forest or all the way out of town for this. It can also be done in a park or in your own garden. Retreat for a while, turn off your smartphone and allow yourself that quality time in nature.

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