Forest Bathing. A Path to Mindfulness
Have you heard of forest bathing? I hadn't. But I'll tell you why I decided to give forest bathing a try and you should too. I'm fascinated with the way our sensorial environment affects our mind and body. In fact, it was one of the main reasons I came up with Harbor Hood so that you get to control what hits your senses. I noticed how my environment can change my mood. Picture yourself hopping in the car at 8:38 am, you're late. Nothing is going right. You turn the car on and the radio flips on and a great song comes on and you start jamming. And in my case, screaming until you feel like you can take the stage of America’s Got Talent. Sound, space, texture, smell, and light molds your environment in a positive or a negative way. So I’m always on the lookout for ways to be in more positive environments. Cue morning coffee catches up with mom. I asked if she has heard of any interesting mindfulness methods that she wants to try. And she ways like "Oh have you heard of Forest Bathing?”
I would not typically be open to trying something called “forest bathing” but lately I have more anxieties. And watching the world at the moment seems like I’m not the only one. Especially if you live in America, systematic racial issues at their breaking point. The pandemic, unemployment rates, tornadoes, and cicadas break our hearts and our wallets. So yeah I was willing to at least look into it. I assume nature is good for you. But Japanese researchers have been able to take it a step further. To prove the physical and mental benefits of forest bathing and how to achieve them.
What is shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing?
Shinrin-Yoku or forest bathing is the practice of spending time in the forest for better health, happiness and a sense of calm. A pillar of Japanese culture for decades, Shinrin-Yoku is a way to reconnect with nature, from walking mindfully in the woods, to a break in your local park, to walking barefoot on your lawn.
What are the benefits?
Forest Medicine expert, Dr Qing Li's research has proven that spending time around trees (even filling your home with house plants and vaporizing essential tree oils) can reduce blood pressure, lower stress, boost energy, boost the immune system and even help you lose weight.
America has adopted this type of “Forest Therapy” around the country. Programs to train guides for group sessions in forest bathing. One doctor has gone as far as writing prescriptions to patients, called Park Rx. Robert Zarr, MD, was also trying to get his patients -- children, teens and young adults -- moving and outside. The Washington, D.C., pediatrician launched Park Rx America in April 2017. Now counts about 325 health care providers who take part.
"The prescriptions that we do for parks are very flexible," he says. He asks his patients what they like to do. "The activity can be anything. It can be a picnic outside or a forest therapy session,'' says Zarr, who is a pediatrician at Unity Health Care.
How to Forest Bath?
My experience forest bathing was that of noticeable peace. There is definitely an overwhelming sense of release when I entered the forest. The sun was piercing through the trees dancing all around. And the biggest difference for me than all the other times I have been in the forest was my mindfulness. I made an effort to listen to the leaves crunching. The soft feel of the carpet like moss on the bottom of tree trunks, and the sound of the water flowing down in the creek. I persuaded my parents to come along. My mom spotted a plant that had her childhood memories flood back to her. She taught me about the sassafras tree that has three types of leaves, which I NEVER WOULD HAVE NOTICED! Or this other plant we called a sticky plant? It acts like velcro on your clothes! “Look ma no hands!” I didn’t expect to learn something new like that steps away from where we live.
I walked out of the forest feeling lighter and happier. It was a beautiful combination of special moments with my parents and pure natural goodness. So if you even have 15 mins and you see a little green take a walk and notice the nature that surrounds you. Touch, feel, listen to escape for a little. Let me know how it goes! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about forest bathing check out the books that I referenced in my post. They are the experts and have spent years of research to write their evidence base works so I hope you will give look! The Little Book of Forest Bathing and Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Heal you find health and The Art and Science of Forest Bathing with Dr Qing Li
Hopefully these tips help you stay at your best despite the circumstances. Finally, thank you to everyone that is out there on the front lines fighting to control the pandemic that the world is facing. May we all do our part to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
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