Forest bathing, the best medicine

Raise your hand if you have heard of forest bathing!

If you had said this to me a couple of days ago, I would not have raised mine. I had never heard this phrase. Yet the concept is not new to me. It’s something I believe in deeply.

Forest bathing is the act of spending time in the forest and engulfing your senses in nature. Most of my readers know, I love nature. This is right up my alley and something I’ve instinctively done all my life.

The phrase “forest bathing” was coined by the Japanese park service and began in the ’80s as a sort of forest park ad campaign. The designation stuck and has come into common usage and practice in Japan. To back up this phenomenon, many scientific and medical studies have since been conducted in Japan and around the world in order to measure the benefits of time spent in nature. It comes as no surprise that it improves overall health and a feeling of well-being. But what did surprise me is how decidedly good it is for us using objective measures. Some of the things measured have been blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, brain cortisol levels, level of cancer killing immune cells in the body. This is not just the object of the study saying, “I feel good when I’m outside.” These are measurable data proving how good the forest is for humans!

I’m always on the lookout for ways to be happier, enjoy more success, feel healthier. “Stand up and live your life” is my motto, and the best place to stand up turns out to be the forest!

Nature hike anyone?

The woods, the trees and rocks give man the resonance he needs,” Ludwig van Beethoven

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in nature. My family wilderness-camped in the summer. We lived in a tourism based small town in northern Minnesota where lakes and forests were the currency. I was taught to understand and embrace the things people commonly fear about nature. Mostly we fear the things we do not understand. So, when I understood the fact that most animals, even predators, instinctively fear humans and avoid us, I no longer feared them. We were never foolhardy. We respected the animals’ territory and habits. This allowed us to enjoy the fact that we were living without walls and barriers between us and them.

I wrote a post about darkness, another thing we humans tend to fear. It’s because we have become accustomed to the unnaturally bright conditions of indoor lighting. We have collectively forgotten what it feels like to let your eyes gradually adjust as the sun sets and the light goes from dusk to full night (which really isn’t usually completely dark, by the way).

Nowadays, we can easily take advantage of forests and natural areas that are much more accessible and a lot less wild. Even if we live in a city, we can usually visit a park, a pond, a bridge over a river, a garden, without traveling far. These places can be just as healthy as deep forests. In fact the research has shown that even a simple house plant can increase a person’s recovery rate from surgery and illness.

We need nature, and it needs us. If you are interested in reading more about this fascinating topic, this post in The Globe and Mail describes a few new books that have recently been published about forest bathing.

Photo credit @antikleopatra on Instagram

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