By: Megan Earp
Taking a walk in nature has many mental health benefits, many of which people do not even realize. Nature, or green space as it is often referred, offers an abundance of health benefits that will improve your quality of life. The idea of Shinrin-Yoku, or Forest Bathing, originated in Japan during the 1980s and it uses the practice of immersing oneself into nature by mindfully using all five senses.
Several studies have backed this practice and prove that Forest Bathing has a positive effect on mental health. The purpose behind Forest Bathing is simple, if you simply take the time to walk into the woods and allow your mind to attune to nature and allow yourself to relax, then rejuvenation and restoration will be achieved.
Forest Bathing provides free self-care
In this day and age, self-care is something not many of us think about. We tend to, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to forget about ourselves. We constantly allow our jobs, friends, family, commitments, activities, and more to take little pieces of us, and we don’t think about the toll it is taking on our mind, body, and soul. Forest Bathing allows us to practice self-care and to give ourselves the much needed respite our tired and exhausted minds/bodies need.
Forest Bathing is not a new practice, but it is a practice that is finally finding its place in society today. Due to this practice, people are able to reconnect with nature and find relief from the stressors of everyday life. It is allowing them to find their center, to find peace, and to find those missing pieces once again. Self-care is truly something that we need to take time to do, and Forest Bathing is one of those activities that can be utilized in order to care for ourselves, especially when we need it most.
How does one Forest Bathe?
In order to fully practice Forest Bathing you must focus your senses on the way the forest surrounds and touches you. Listen to the trees dancing in the wind, to the birds singing their songs, and the chirps of crickets in the underbrush. You must focus your attention on the way the breeze touches your skin, the way the sunlight glitters upon you, and you must allow the many smells of nature, like moss, dampness, and the sweet scent of flowers to engulf your senses. In other words, take in every aspect of nature, allow all FIVE of yours senses to work together in order to calm your anxious mind.
When you practice Forest Bathing you are not hiking in the woods, but you are allowing yourself to wander, slowly, at a snail’s pace. You are focusing on the connection you are making with nature – it’s not about the destination or the miles walked. Many times, it is hard for people to slow down enough to appreciate what nature has to offer, and Forest Bathing allows this. It allows the mind, the body, and the soul to find peace and to fully relax, unlike ever before. This practice can offer a unique relaxation, one that is not often experienced.
Benefits of Forest Bathing
Forest Bathing offers many benefits, of which can be quite beneficial to mental health. Those benefits are:
- Relaxation – Forest Bathing provides people with a simple and enjoyable way to spend time outside and to truly relax. Since there is no destination in mind, there is no hurry with Forest Bathing and there is no agenda to achieve. This practice allows you to do nothing, and feel good about it, thus relieving built up tension and anxiety. Remember, it’s okay to do absolutely nothing, your mind will thank you.
- Physical Health/Well-Being – Many people do not know that nature can actually provide many beneficial health outcomes, which include helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, diabetes, ADHD, cancer, obesity, migraines, and much more. Forest Bathing also can boost your immune system and provide mental clarity. Essentially, nature is a good doctor, and it’s free!
- Emotional and Mental Health – Those who practice Forest Bathing can see a decrease in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even experience a deeper level of mental relaxation. Another positive aspect of this practice is that it can provide feelings of gratitude, selflessness, and wonder. Your moods can finally find balance, and your body will feel the respite from the battle of mental health.
- Escaping the Everyday – Forest Bathing allows you to escape from the monotony of everyday life. It allows you to detach from your surroundings and to take on activities in nature that will relieve stress and anxiety, which will improve your health. The idea is to leave behind the headphones, the tablets, cell phones (at least turn it off), and to allow yourself to truly experience what nature has to offer. It’s about listening to nature and to yourself.
Forest Bathing is truly an experience that should be practiced in order to improve mental clarity. Besides the benefits above, there are many more, and each one only helps to reduce symptoms of mental health. Research proves that a short walk in the forest can reduce tension, anger, fatigue, depression, confusion and anxiety as well as improve positive emotion. Why not allow yourself to at least try? To take a chance and walk in nature, allow your mind to focus on your surroundings, and clear your anxious mind?
If you need more self-care activities, or feel as though you are struggling and need help, please contact us or call us (Grinnell, Iowa Ph: 6412361644 or Williamsburg, Iowa Ph: 3196681217) and talk to one of our therapists today. We are here to guide you on your journey to self-care and together we can help you reconnect with nature once again.