Autumn is a time of year when many people get out to enjoy seasonal fall colors as the leaves turn from green to yellow, orange and crimson. It is a lovely time to be outside, to relax, and to take a little time away from busy daily life. If you are someone who does this, you are benefitting from the practice of “forest bathing” even if you have never heard of this specific term before.
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese term which was coined in the early 80s. The literal translation is “forest bath” but the term refers more generally to bathing in the forest atmosphere or taking in the forest through your senses. It is all about spending time in the forest, cultivating a relationship with nature and letting its influences wash over you. This practice has become very popular, and there’s lots of information available about the benefits of spending time in the forest and how to go about doing it to fully receive those benefits.
Benefits of Forest Bathing
- Improve heart and lung health.
- Boost immunity.
- Improve focus and memory.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Encourage faster healing.
- Increase self-worth and confidence.
- Increase sense of well-being.
- Get better sleep and rest.
- Release unwanted thoughts.
- Improve mood.
- Strengthen the ability to control cravings, give up addictions.
- Find peace and happiness in the present moment.
- Build empathy. Improve relationships.
- Find answers for important questions and decisions.
How to Practice Forest Bathing
Whether you live near a forest or national park, or take a visit to a local city park or natural area, or step outside into your own back yard, you can incorporate the following practices into your outdoor time to get more out of it. If getting outside is problematic, these practices are easily adaptable so that you can realize most of the benefits with mindful appreciation of your houseplants, artwork and other indoor reminders of the beauty of nature.
- Take the time to go outside; let go of any agenda for this time
- Slow down physically and mentally; pause frequently
- Separate from your devices; leave the smart phones, tablets and computers behind
- Use your senses; savor the sounds, smells and sights of nature
- Cultivate appreciation; invite the energies and vibrations of nature into your being
- Celebrate awe, wonder, connection; realize your personal connection with nature
Reflect on your experience afterwards. Some people benefit from writing notes in a journal to make note of how they felt before and after their experience. Keep in mind that this is something quite different from hiking, jogging or exercising. It is simply being present, being in nature, using all your senses to connect to something larger than yourself. Even 5 minutes has been shown to have a measurable effect in reducing stress and anxiety and improving well-being. If you have 20 minutes, that is suggested as an ideal length of time to set aside for the self-care practice of forest bathing. Finally, if you live near or resonate more with desert or beach landscapes, all the same practices and benefits apply.
How to Bring it Home
Considering most of us spend the majority of our time indoors, it is helpful to consider how to bring these benefits into your home, workspace and anywhere you spend a lot of time. You can bring nature into your home and personal space and apply the same “how to” steps to in your indoor spaces. Incorporating your own creativity and what is meaningful to you into the following suggestions can give you a mini-nature get away without stepping outdoors.
- Create a houseplant “forest” – interacting with indoor plants may be able to reduce stress and anxiety. Plus, they have the added bonus of helping to purify the air.
- Select a photo or artwork that connects you with nature – mindfully appreciating the imagery bring you into a state very similar to being outdoors.
- Use technology in a beneficial way – watching nature videos, taking a “virtual forest walk” or even selecting a screen saver that brings you a sense of peace and calm will make a difference in your indoor outlook on life.
If you are interested in learning more, here is a collection of resources for you:
- Time: ‘Forest Bathing’ Is Great for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It
- Healing Forest: Forest Bathing – What, How, Where? A beginner’s guide
- REI: There’s No Running in Forest Bathing
- Right as Rain by UW Medicine: Here’s How Indoor Plants Keep You Healthy — and How You Can Return the Favor
- Andrew Weil – Center for Integrative Medicine Podcast: Forest Bathing – Combating Modern Society’s Nature Deficit
We encourage you to give forest bathing a try. The benefits are truly profound for such a simple, self-care practice.
At Satori Integrative Medicine Clinic, we encourage our patients to incorporate mindfulness practices into daily life as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for: major depression, the depressed phase of bipolar disorder (bipolar depression), postpartum depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), and addiction. Our services include integrative medicine, ketamine and lidocaine infusions and medical acupuncture. If you or someone you know suffers from any of these conditions and this approach to health and wellness resonates with you, please contact us for more information.