Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Bathing in nature to improve mental wellbeing

Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing as it’s more commonly known, has become a popular way to embrace nature and boost mental wellbeing. Originally practised in Japan, this back-to-nature activity has now caught on internationally. A study published by the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction indicated that it may reduce stress, heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn can reduce the risk of depression, cancer, stroke and ulcers.

What is forest bathing?

Ultimately, forest bathing involves spending mindful time among nature beneath a leafy canopy where you can disconnect from the outside world and become one with the trees and wildlife. It’s about stepping away from the hustle and bustle, switching off your devices and allowing the forest to heal your mind. Living busy lives in built-up areas can often be detrimental to our mental health and has been linked to anxiety, stress and depression. So it’s important to take time out to de-stress among nature and take care of our own mental wellbeing.

Forest bathing exercises

There are several ways you can immerse yourself in forest bathing and let Mother Nature wash over you. Whether you want to get down and creative or prefer to indulge your senses with the sound of sweet birdsong or the fresh smell of pines, you’re sure to leave feeling more relaxed, revitalised and free from head clutter.

  1. Practise mindfulness as you walk among the trees, paying particular attention to the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. Make a conscious effort to slow down your walking and breathing as you absorb absolutely everything around you.
  2. There are few settings as calming as the forest for a spot of yoga. This is a great way to practice your breathing and inhale the fresh air as you stretch among the trees. Yoga has lots of physical benefits as well as releasing the much-needed serotonin which can improve your mood and make you feel happier.
  3. There’s nothing quite like cooking outdoors. If you don’t have the skills of Bear Grylls and haven’t accomplished starting a fire with a couple of dry sticks, why not buy a disposable barbecue and head down to the forest for some wild dining (forest permitting). There is something so primitive and liberating about cooking over an open fire that really awakens all of your senses. 
  4. Creating art is a great way to release any pent-up emotions and to feel more mentally balanced. So, creating art under a forest canopy surrounded by nature can only bring even more positive results. This is a wonderful way to express yourself, increase your self-confidence, and reduce stress and anxiety.

For more information, visit The Forest Bathing Institute. You’ll also find the UK’s first research paper on the health benefits of forest bathing.

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