Updated: Jun 17, 2022
Go ahead and put your bath towel away - forest bathing isn't what it sounds like!
What's forest bathing?
The term comes from a Japanese physiological exercise known as “shinrin-yoku,” which translates to “forest bathing,” designed to help people reconnect with nature and avoid work-related stress and burnout.
Forest bathing involves spending time in nature and clearing your mind of everything other than what your five senses are experiencing. Unlike other outdoor activities like hiking or photography excursions, forest bathing has no structure or end goal. It’s not about exercise, or taking cool photos; forest bathing is just about being.
What are the health benefits of forest bathing?
We know that practicing mindfulness has a myriad of health benefits, but the fact that forest bathing takes place outdoors makes this practice especially impactful.
Fresh outdoor air has higher levels of oxygen than indoor air. All of the cells in your body need
oxygen to function, but they all have to share the amount they have access to. This means that when the oxygen levels in your body are suboptimal, your cells have less oxygen available to them with and can’t function as well as they should. Increasing your oxygen intake helps give your cells what they need to keep your mind and body healthy.
For example, more oxygen for your brain translates to improved energy and focus. More oxygen for your heart results in lower blood pressure and heart rate, and more oxygen for your lungs helps clear them out and repair damaged tissue.
Getting outside and being around trees and plants also exposes your body to phytoncides, which are natural oils produced by plants that protect them from things like bacteria and insects.
Phytoncides are great for humans, too! Phytoncides have the power to increase the body’s immune response, enhance sleep, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and lower blood pressure and heart rate, among other benefits.
The average American spends 93 percent of their time indoors. If you aren’t getting outside, you’re missing out on the amazing benefits that nature is offering your body!
Want to give forest bathing a try? It’s easy!
If you live near a forest, head on over. Evergreens, including pine, spruce, conifers, and cedar produce the most phytoncides, so forest bathing in an evergreen forest helps give your body maximum health benefits.
If you don’t live near a forest, don’t worry: Forest bathing can be done in any outdoor setting. Just choose a local park or green space, beach, mountains and get out there! Spend as much time as you’d like engaging your senses.
Pay attention to what you see, smell, hear, feel, and taste. And make sure to turn your phone off! All your messages and notifications will still be there when you’re done.
Try it for yourself, and see what unplugging and experiencing nature can do for you!