What is Forest Bathing?
Many decades ago, long before the age of crypto-currencies, self-driving cars or even the internet, the Japanese discovered a secret. A way to live longer, healthier and happier lives and a feeling of oneness with nature. Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy became a part of the country’s national health program, improving life expectancy and measures of happiness.
As lockdown restrictions ease and our freedom is returned, it is time to reconnect with yourself and find grounding once again in the natural world. With forest bathing, the soaking isn’t literal. Bathing takes on a new meaning—immersing yourself in the natural environment.
Over the three decades since its inception, the goal of forest bathing is still to reintroduce people to the healing power of nature. And study after study has confirmed what the Japanese long believed—nature benefits wellbeing in many ways.
Here are 5 scientifically proven reasons why being outside will improve the health of you and your family.
Research shows that spending time in nature relieves stress in teens and adults alike. Something as simple as a barefoot walk in nature or swim in the open ocean is enough to reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your blood stream. Studies even show that office workers with window views experience less stress than their inner-cubicle cousins—if you’ve been stuck in a confined space during lockdown it’s time to expand your horizons, literally!
Our immune systems are like a muscle, they respond to resistance and, therefore, perform best when exercised regularly. All this time inside, with our justified germaphobia, has left our immune systems lazy and out of shape.
In 2010 a study evaluated the effects of forest bathing on immunity and found that with a group of Japanese adults, a three-day trip to the forest significantly improved their white blood cell count—an important factor in immunity. Impressively, in this study the white blood cell counts remained elevated 30 days after they returned to the city.
Calm the Mind
Every one of us who has experienced lockdown over the past 2 years knows how it has impacted the mind. It’s different for everyone, we all have different coping mechanisms and different thresholds. However, good news is that the easiest way to change your mindset is to change your physiology. Our bodies have physical responses to being in nature, including reduced blood pressure, lower heart rate, and decreased cortisol levels. When we are outside our body slows down, helping us feel peaceful and calm.
Improved Short Term Memory
A study by the University of Michigan showed that nature could be the answer to remembering names, not forgetting your keys and taking better notes in meetings. And there is growing evidence that time spent outside improves short-term and working memory.
In the University of Michigan study, two groups of students were given a memory test and then instructed to take a walk through either a garden or downtown city streetscape. Those who walked through the garden improved their scores by 20% whereas no consistent improvement was found in the group that walked the city streets.
We are spending more time inside and on devices than ever before. Computers, tablets, mobile phones—they all hog our attention and keep us focused on smaller spaces. Most of you know what it’s like to fall into an “Instagram hole”—this writer included.
A recent study showed that children aged 8-18 spend more than 6 hours on average each day with electronic media. And another study found that 8-year old children could better identify Pokémon characters than plants or animals in their neighbourhood.
Getting out of the house and away from our devices creates space for contemplation, reflection and even some healthy boredom. Embrace it and feel the difference to your levels of creativity and clarity of thought.
Get Outdoors, Get Healthy
The bottom line is there is no wrong way to do it! Find some time to venture outside and take advantage of the health benefits of the outdoors. Instead of spending more time inside on electronic devices, go for a bike ride or an ocean swim. Take up forest bathing or gardening as a new hobby. Your body and mind will thank you.
When You Can’t Get Outside… Bring the Outside In!
Enjoy the benefits of bringing greenery and nature inside your home. You’ll be amazed by the positive effects indoor plants have on our mental health. Read more about how houseplants can enhance your wellbeing and check out our range, from lush philodendrons with verdant green leaves and red ruby stalks to tropical monsteras, emerald green peace lilies and many more. Don’t know which plant might be right for you? Contact our team. We’re happy to help!
I couldn’t agree more-this is what we ALL need to do on a regular basis. During lockdown, aside from looking at my beautiful flower arrangements from Fig and Bloom ( yes, truly, and no, they are not paying me to say this!) I found that just observing the flowers and plants in the gardens of local houses on my daily walks to be simply very calming. Now that we can truly get out and immerse ourselves in natural settings we need to take advantage of it regularly. Thanks Fig and Bloom for this timely article.