Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Forest Bathing and Its Mental Health Benefits

Life gets busy. You lose track of time often and can forget about caring for yourself, but relieving your stress and anxiety is essential. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to do it. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese practice in which you fully immerse yourself in nature to soak up the health benefits. It is an effective yet simple way to enhance your well-being. 

Here is more on forest bathing and its mental health benefits. 

 

What Is Forest Bathing?

The term “forest bathing” was coined in 1982, but it has nothing to do with water. It may sound like you will be dipping into a pool, but it means immersing yourself in the woods. 

Many people in urban environments are constantly surrounded by stressors that can lead to physical and mental issues like anxiety, depression and more. Forest bathing is a natural therapy to bring you back to reality and help you appreciate your surroundings. The peacefulness and natural beauty give the mind a break from ruminating on deadlines and obligations. 

 

Mental Health Benefits 

Spending time in nature can do wonders for your mental health. You unplug from the craziness of your daily life and mindfully soak up your surroundings. Here are some of the benefits of sitting in nature to heal. 

 

1. Reduces Stress

The most significant reason for forest bathing is to reduce stress and disconnect from daily stressors. People who don’t live in green spaces have a 44% higher rate of diagnosed anxiety than those who do. Spending time in nature can reduce cortisol in the body naturally. 

Spending time outdoors helps you feel more relaxed, reducing anxiety. Nature also helps lower blood pressure and heart rate, which accompanies stress. Your mind and body can calm down when taking in the beauty surrounding you. 

 

2. Improves Mood

Spending time in nature increases serotonin levels, which regulate mood. Being outdoors makes you feel happier and more positive, impacting your mental health. Even just getting exposure to the sun can naturally increase serotonin levels. Light therapy has been used to help people fight against seasonal affective disorder (SAD) triggered by the winter. Serotonin helps with other things like sleep and appetite. Your mood sometimes can depend on your sleep quality, which forest bathing will improve. 

 

3. Boosts Creativity and Productivity 

Nature is a great way to enhance creativity and develop new ideas, especially if you’re in a creative slump. Forest bathing improves your attention and helps you develop new ideas. Your mind is free to wander and consider all possibilities. Find inspiration in nature by stepping away from other tasks. 

In addition, time spent outdoors improves your productivity. The fresh air and sunlight help you power through your to-do list later by strengthening your focus and concentration. 

 

4. Strengthens Immunity 

Your immune system suffers when in a state of consistent stress. However, when outdoors, you can breathe in phytoncides that trees give off to protect themselves from pests and help you, too. 

Vitamin D is another important element for your immune system, and sunlight will help boost it. The sun also energizes T cells, which help fight infection. 

 

Why It Works

There are also physical benefits of forest bathing in addition to mental ones. In one study, participants walked in an urban area while another group spent time in a forest and switched the next day. The results found the forest environment lowered cortisol, pulse rate and blood pressure compared to the city. Nature decreased sympathetic nerve activity, leading to relaxation. 

 

How to Forest Bathe 

You can still practice forest bathing even if you’re not near one. 

 

  • Find a quiet natural area: The first step is finding a place to connect with the natural world. Indulge in all the sounds, sights and feelings. 

  • Leave your phone behind: If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your device at home, disconnect by turning it off or putting it on airplane mode. Take a break from social media and news while you take in nature. 

 

  • Use your senses. Sometimes being outside can be distracting, and you might not notice much of the beauty around you. Use your senses of sight, smell, hearing and touch to engage with your surroundings. Pay attention to the calming colors and sounds to benefit from being in nature. 

  • Slow down: Forest bathing is not meant to be rushed or treated like exercise. The goal is to slow down and observe what is around you. Sit or wander around to get comfortable and embrace the outdoors. 

 

  • Stay in the moment: This is your chance to stay mindful and present. Make sure nothing distracts you besides the sights and sounds of nature. 

 

Give Forest Bathing a Try

Forest bathing is a great way to improve your mental health. Break away from the business of life by slowing down and connecting with nature. Even a small amount of time in nature can impact your health.