Forest bathing: Leaf your stress at home

Forest bathing

Forest bathing. Nothing to do with water, everything to do with trees.

Yes, it’s actually a ‘thing’ – and it’s becoming increasingly popular. The phrase ‘shinrinyoku’ or ‘forest bathing’ first popped up in Japan in the 1980s, when the Forest Agency of Japan dreamed it up as part of a campaign to encourage people to appreciate the health benefits of relaxing in nature.

What can forest bathing do?

For the past couple of years, experts have been backing up this movement by conducting scientific tests to measure what effect forest bathing really has on our mood, stress levels and immune system.

Early results show that ‘green time’ may boost the immune system, including increased production of cancer-fighting cells.

A Profile of Mood States (POMS) test recorded decreased scores for anxiety, depression and anger after forest bathing.

Bringing it home

The UK doesn’t have as much forest coverage of Japan but advocates say anywhere with a decent tree canopy is good enough to grab the benefits of forest bathing.

We know instinctively that being out in nature makes us feel great. The good news is, anyone can reap the rewards. It’s not physical exertion that delivers the goods, it’s focusing mindfully on your surroundings.

Simply be present and listen to the sounds of the woods – the birdsong, the wind in the trees, the rustle of small creatures. Really notice the bright colours, the more subtle shades and the textures. Breathe deeply, being aware of the different smells. If possible, indulge the sense of taste too, by foraging berries or other edible forest foods (or pack a picnic!).

Unplug from your phone

If you want to get maximum immune-boosting benefit, remember this is your ‘unplugged’ time. Leave your phone, laptop, iPod or any other device at home and focus on getting fresh air into your lungs.

Increasing your oxygen levels will boost your energy at a cellular level. If you’re breathing more slowly and deeply, your whole being will be more soothed too.

Step it up

Why not go the whole hog and try walking barefoot, to really add that extra zing?

Check out this blog post to discover more about how going barefoot can helping to boost red blood cells, improve sleep patterns and give us an overall lift in our wellbeing.

Further reading:

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash