Forest bathing is an ancient Japanese practice that is slowly finding its way into mainstream western culture due to all of the health benefits, both physical and mental (and dare I say spiritual), it provides. Don’t worry, you can keep your clothes on to receive all of the benefits!
Forest bathing consists of simply taking a lovely stroll through a forest. Often done slowly and intentionally so that you may fully take in all that it has to offer. It’s more than just a meditative experience, although some of the benefits definitely come from the mindful awareness of being in nature and the space doing so creates between yourself and the bustle of life. Phytoncides are the biggest component of this health-enhancing nature walk.
Phytoncides are aromatic compounds released by trees, shrubs, and all of the other plants you’re going to find along your forest bathing trek that are then breathed in by you. These “essential oils” are produced by trees and other plants to protect themselves from fungus, disease, and pests but are readily available for us to take advantage of as well!
These volatile components are anti-microbial and immune system enhancing for us, meaning they’re going to help you to fight off anything harmful that’s present in your body and protect you from anything harmful trying to get in. They also enhance the body’s ability to produce “killer cells,” which are a specifically strong type of white blood cell capable of fighting not only disease-causing microorganisms but cancer cells as well!
Phytoncides also affect the olfactory system which is tied directly to your emotions. This uplifts your mood, creates a relaxing effect, and helps you bypass any not-so-positive energy you’ve been feeling lately. These effects have been seen to last as long as 30 days after your forest bath!
Reduced Blood Pressure
Twenty trials of over 700 individuals have proven that the effects of forest bathing drastically decrease diastolic blood pressure and, with it, any heart-related diseases that may be caused by high blood pressure. Whether this is due to the phytoncide components or other factors is, as yet, unclear.
It could be that, subconsciously, we are more at home in the forest than on the busy streets of cities. Or that the sounds of nature help to melt away our stress. Either way, the results are clear.
Other Benefits of Forest Bathing
The therapeutic benefits of forest bathing are deep and vast. Spending time in nature is one of the best things we can do for our overall health and wellness. Aside from its cardiovascular, immune, and emotional help, it’s been seen to increase creativity, improve critical thinking skills and improve metabolism.
For best results, forest bathe slowly, mindfully, and often. Engage all of your senses and fully take in all of the colors, smells, and feelings the forest has to offer. Embrace the quiet solitude of the trees as you take it all in, and don’t forget to bring your loved ones and coach them on the practice as well!