Forest bathing to relax

The concept of ‘forest bathing’ or ‘shinrin-yoku‘; is literally walking into a forest, to open and submerse all your senses in nature.

“Whenever we touch nature we get clean. People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods, or a bath in the sea.” – Carl Jung

Forest bathing or ‘Shinrin-yoku’

A great way to relax, is to simply go for a walk in the woods. This has been given the term: ‘forest bathing’; because you are literally submerged in nature. For most of us in Europe; a forest or wood is not far from where we live. By taking just a few hours out from our man made schedules and commitments; we can: boost our immune systems, clear our thoughts and relax to how mother nature made us to be.

Forest bathing in bluebells!

‘Shinrin – yoku’

The ability to go for a walk in the woods has been possible ever since homo erectus decided to stand up on his or hers hind legs and go for a walk! Yet only in recent years, with the overpowering stresses and strains of our man made habitats and societies; has the need to identify ways to relax and return to a state of natural well being.

In the 1980’s, there was a huge increase in the use of technology; with computers, cell phones and other inventions forcing our natural speed to its limits. In addition, more and more people spent time indoors; in: offices, shops, warehouses and factories. With one study by Tokyo Doctor Qing Li; estimating Japanese city dwellers were indoors a staggering 93 percent of their time! The Japanese government noticed that this caused: an increase in: depression, disillusionment and physical pain. So Dr. Qing Li, prescribed to patients not pills; but advice to simply spend at least a couple of hours each week, out in nature. By going to a forest; you are completely surrounded by nature. No houses, roads or machines are visible; so the body can only focus on nature.

Here below; is an Amazon link to buy Dr Qing Li’s book:
Please note: “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

The Forest of Dean, near Symonds Yat, England

A branch of benefits

Walking through a forest, provides the obvious benefit of fresh oxygenated air.

In addition, by leaving behind your daily stresses from work and social situations; you are returning to your natural self and rhythm. You will give yourself time to contemplate any issues; without being forced into making immediate decisions. Your adrenaline and cortisol levels will drop further as well. Issues that seemed so serious; will often fade into insignificance when you realise they don’t matter out in nature. Take a moment to look for animals and insects and notice their behaviour. Are they: on a phone, on Whatsapp, checking the time? No, they are simply going about their natural need to forage and feed.

Consider your five senses and make sure they are all open to nature. A deep forest will prevent views and sounds of civilization. Touch barks and mosses; smell fragrances of flowers and sap. Evergreen trees give out more beneficial oils but all trees are equally amazing!
Taste any edible berries or just the aromas floating in the oxygen rich air.

Setting sun through trees

The benefits of ‘forest bathing’ do not stop there. Studies have found that trees emit essential oils as they photosynthesise. In these oils, there are chemical compounds known as: Phytoncides. These compounds boost the human immune system by increasing the white blood cells that kill viruses and bacteria that enter our bodies.

This is explained very well by the amazing Dr. Eric Berg on YouTube:

Click on the link

The way to the woods!

I am sure you know of a local wood or forest; that is not too far away. If you are new to an area or just passing through; then you can simply Google: ‘woods near me’!

Try to not drive too far or spend too much time and money getting to a wood or forest. If you cannot get to a lot of trees; try and find just a copse or single tree in a park or street near you.

forest bathing by bike in Grovely Wood, England
Forest bathing in a dark wood in the Lake District, England

As always; take care and be safe. Tell someone where you are going and take your mobile phone but turn it off. Dress appropriately for the time of year and altitude. Check the weather and the sunset time. If you don’t feel safe being alone; then go to forests where there are other like minded walkers.

Try to make a walk in a wooded area part of your daily commute or just go for a Sunday walk with friends, family or alone. Studies show that the benefits of a two hour forest walk last for about two weeks; so set that as a minimum target.

The Avenue; Grovely Wood, England
A small wood in the Benasque Valley, Aragon, Spain

Look at your roots

So by simply going for a walk in the woods; we can reduce stress, risks of serious illnesses and improve our immune systems. Yet the amazing benefits do not stop there. By being outside we are absorbing Vitamin D that again helps to improve our immune system. We are also exercising; so we become stronger and we get another happy hit from the release of the good chemicals called: serotonin.

Do not take my word for it; here are two really interesting articles from National Geographic and Time:

Okay, so a walk in the woods is difficult for those of you who live in the Sahara, sail the seven seas or are just housebound. If you are currently under a curfew due to the current world pandemic; at least use the many photos on this page for inspiration. Remember them, close your eyes and go for a walk in your mind!

Get out there and return to nature!

Forest bathing above Benasque, Spain.

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