Forest Bathing for Better Mental Health

By Christy Piña

Forest bathing has nothing to do with actually bathing and everything to do with allowing yourself to get lost in the forest and using all your senses to do so.

What is forest bathing?

This Japanese way of healing was developed in 1980. The Japanese term for it is shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” The purpose is to become immersed in nature. Forest bathing has begun to take off in the United States. Since it originated, growing evidence has shown that forest bathing helps boost immunity and mood, as well as reduce stress. “Studies have shown that within 15 minutes of being in nature, your stress level goes down, your heart rate, blood pressure improves,” Dr. Nooshin Razani, a pediatrician and nature researcher with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, told CNN.

According to a survey sponsored by the EPA from 2001, Americans spend the 93 percent of their weeks indoors. The evidence from the survey showed that spending that much time indoors is hurting our health. “If you’re in nature longer, you can feel less depressed, less anxious. And if you’re in nature for a few days, you have much increased creativity and cognitive ability,” said Dr. Razani.

Typical forest bathing often begins similarly to a yoga class. The guide asks you to become more present, clear your head, deeply inhale and exhale, close your eyes and imagine seeing everything around you for the very first time.

Forest bathing is not about tracking your progress or seeing how many steps you take, like many health programs are today. It is about disconnecting and allowing your body to get the vitamin D it so desperately needs and craves, all to the benefit of your overall well-being.

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