Take Two Doses of Nature and Call Me in the Morning!
Know anyone who’s considering having a talk with their doctor about what they can do to stay healthy? If that person were living in Japan, the conversation might surprise you, because many doctors there would probably prescribe something called Forest Bathing.
In Japan, it’s not surprising that Forest Bathing has been part of their national health program since 1982, because it’s the norm there to work even more hours per week there than we do in the US. But the practice is gaining popularity in the states, as well, probably because the latest estimates show that 75-90% of all visits to doctors in the US are related to stress.
So, what is forest bathing? Much different than a hike in the forest, the practice involves sitting or walking very slowly in nature while immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, smells, and textures around you. A great deal of research has been conducted around this topic, and the findings show there are many benefits including: lower blood pressure, strengthened immune system, reduced stress, improved mood, better focus even if you have ADHD, increased energy, improved sleep, and increased ability to recover from illness.
If you can’t get out into nature, the next best thing is to bring the forest in to you. Spend time looking at nature through your window. Hang an image of a nature scene in your office. Use an aromatherapy diffuser to fill your office with the smell of cypress or balsam fir needle.
Forest bathing is something you can do on your own, but it’s great to go with a guide who can help you have a deeper experience and really open up to what the forest has to offer. Experts say you can do the practice anywhere in nature. However, areas that have trees are especially good because trees release compounds into the air that function much like aromatherapy does. And the benefits of forest bathing can last long after the experience ends—sometimes even weeks.
Carve out some time during your day, leave your phone behind, and follow the advice of naturalist John Muir, who said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”