Did you know that the average American spends over 90% of his or her time indoors?
According to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 87% of their life indoors with an additional 6% spent in automobiles.
Only a small fraction of the average American life is enjoyed outdoors, but even that limited time is extremely beneficial. Getting out in nature can relieve stress, help with relaxation, clear the mind, and improve your overall physical and mental health. The Japanese culture has a name for this phenomenon. They call it shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing.”
Yes, you read that right. Forest. Bathing. It’s a thing.
Forest bathing is the Japanese practice of connecting with nature and allowing it to restore and rejuvenate you- mind, body, and soul. It doesn’t have to be exercise or hiking or any specific activity. It’s just simply being outside in whatever way you want and taking in every sight, sound, scent, and sensation around you. Anyone can do it and everyone could benefit from it.
Science-backed Benefits of Forest Bathing
According to a meta-analysis published in 2017, 20 scientific research studies regarding the physiological effects of forest bathing on 732 participants were analyzed. Of the wide variety of outcomes reported from each study, the meta-analysis focused solely on the effects of blood pressure of participants in a forest setting compared to those in a non-forest setting.
Within every study, both systolic and diastolic pressures were reportedly lower in participants in a forest environment than those in a non-forest environment. Additionally, 13 of the 20 studies focused on heart and pulse rate, and not surprisingly, these results showed significantly lower rates in participants in a forest environment than those not.
In regard to stress, cortisol, known as the "stress hormone", plays a crucial role in helping the body respond to stress. Elevated cortisol levels have been shown to
A systematic and meta-analysis reviewing a total of 30 articles revealed that 28 articles reported significantly lower cortisol levels related to stress in participants after intervention in forest groups than non-forest groups. Chronically high cortisol levels are associated with depression, anxiety, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, and many more problems.
A study at Nippon Medical School showed that 50% of the benefits of forest bathing stem from the very air we breathe. The chemical makeup of forest air is naturally higher in oxygen and other naturally expelled chemicals that can boost our immune systems by increasing the production of NK immune cells that help fight disease.
How To Forest Bathe
So, how exactly do you “bathe” in the forest, you ask. It’s easy, and no it doesn’t have to be in an actual forest.
First, leave your device behind. You don’t need your phone, camera, or computer. In fact, you don’t need anything! Then, engage all your senses. Dip your toes in a stream, smell the wildflowers, listen to the birds, watch a tree sway in the wind, and breathe in the fresh air. Open your eyes and mind to your environment; pay careful attention to the little simplicities of nature that often go aunnoticed. Finally, enjoy your refreshed state of mind. Relish in the peace and happiness you’ve found in the midst of a busy work week or tough day.
Forest bathing is different for everyone. Some people walk, some do yoga, some meditate, some pray, some eat, and some just sit. No skill required. No equipment needed. Just you and nature.
Try it. Find your “forest,” and Live Wild.