Forest Bathing for your health and happiness


Research and writing by Maya Botha of TheWorldAccordingToMaya


It is relatively general knowledge that nature is considered to be fulfilling for one’s soul in terms of beauty and peace. Not only that but it can also serve as a healing therapy and cure a person, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual.

According to Ephrat Livni in a February 2018 article about Japanese “forest medicine”, there have been studies that trees – similar to superheroes and heroines – have special abilities of their own. One example is that they produce important oils named phytoncides which helps to protect trees from dangerous bacteria. Some pros of the oils include;

  •  Lifts a person’s mood.
  •  Boost immune system performance.
  •  Improve sleep and inventiveness.
  •  Likelihood of decreasing the risk of cancer and despair.

For those in the know of phytoncides, it is an element produced by vegetation and usually means the fragrance of the woods. They are created as a defensive shield for plants and trees against toxic insects and microorganisms. One can also find them in fruit and vegetables.

For further reading on the fascinating plant matter, here is the included link; http://forest-therapy.net/healthbenefits.html

Back to the forest medicine article, Physician Qing Li, who is also chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, states that his passion in tree healing all started when he ventured on a forest trip back in 1988. At the time when he was a “stressed Tokyo medical student”, he discovered that his seven-day camping trip refreshed him with life. His book Forest Bathing which released in April 2018 details about how a person can take pleasure in the therapeutic advantages just by being with the trees as well as a list of analyzed benefits.

When it comes to being in touch with nature – pun intended – Li explains that hugging a tree is good for people because it boosts the sense of touch, gets us into physical contact with phytoncides, and fulfils our biophilia. In Greek, the word bios translates to life, and philos meaning loving. Simply put, it means “life-loving” or to say it grammatically correct; loving life.

Back in my Stellenbosch University days, on my way to classes, I always passed these stunning flower beds planted full of daisies and lavender. Almost every time while I was walking, I reached out a hand and nearly touched them as if I was gently caressing them. To me, nearly stroking flowers is an enriching experience because it feels like you are in love with God’s natural creations while simultaneously respecting it by not picking them. If you see a fallen blossom like a Frangipani, I gleefully suggest that you put it in your hair as a natural accessory.

On the short subject of the hearing sense, Li encourages people to listen externally. By that, he means that we generally listen to our internal thinking and that we should concentrate on hearing surroundings from outside. Whether you are listening to beautiful birdsongs or the powerful sounds of thunder – my personal favourite – there is always something from hearing nature that appeals to lovers of the natural world. Just find a recording online or a CD that suits your preference, as well as listen to sounds outside, and let nature’s music be your next playlist.

Now, ask yourself; when was the last time you saw a gorgeous Willow tree or a lovely flower like a rose? William James, a 19th-century philosopher and psychologist, stated that seeing and focusing on nature evokes instinctive attention, calms people, and they do not have to constantly look out for possible hazards which cities often have i.e. loud train hoots. James also believes that the beauty of nature relaxes us and that we see and think better in a green setting. I would suggest that as a break from working, you take a five-minute intentional gaze at the closest – or one of your preferred – natural wonders. This could be a tree or a glorious and majestic mountain in the distance, snowy or full of green. Take it from someone who lives close to a big mountain that serves as a regular and beautiful sight as well as a momentary relieve from work pressure.

For further reading on Japanese forest therapy, here is the included link;
https://qz.com/1208959/japanese-forest-medicine-is-the-art-of-using-nature-to-heal-yourself-wherever-you-are/

According to a 2009 Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine journal article about the effect of forest bathing on our immune system, the Japanese word “Shinrinyoku” translates to a forest bathing trip, which is basically a brief and relaxing outing to a forest and is considered to be related to natural aromatherapy. The whole trip consists of the traveler visiting a forest for pleasure, tranquillity, and restoration while also inhaling phytoncides. Organizing these peaceful excursions for the purpose of having a rewarding life began in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan. In the present, it has become a well-known component of entertainment in terms of being in harmony and managing anxiety in the country.

For further reading, here is the attached link;
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/

As explained by a Bustle article about five methods on how being in nature changes your brain, here are some health advantages;

  • It can elevate your psychological health.
  • It can help deduct action in sections of your brain that are associated with misery.
  • It can increase your overall wholeness.
  • Different “levels” of nature may have contrasting results on you i.e. a location that is similar to being an indoor gym, and a green setting you would normally find in parks and forests.
  • It might aid you in enhancing your short-term attention.

For further reading, here is the included link;
https://www.bustle.com/p/5-ways-being-in-nature-changes-your-brain-according-to-science-15827469

A Mental Floss article about eleven facts on why nature is soothing says that spending time outside has been recognized to do great wonders in one’s body, such as mind refreshment. Their list of health benefits includes;

  • The more Vitamin D you have in your system, the better.
    (Out of personal experience, it is really healthy for your body and mind when you feel some sun on your skin. I suggest that you do it every day for fifteen to thirty minutes.)
  • Boosts your bone and dental health.
  • Natural light regulates your sleep program.
  • Helps adjust the melatonin in your body.
  • Being outside loosens you up from daily work.
  • Better mind concentration.
  • Helps with brain revitalization.
  • Decreases stress.
  • Fresh air assists with blood pressure problems.
  • Deep Breathing aids you to calm down.
    (Out of personal experience, it helps greatly when you are feeling agitated or anxious.)
  • Oxygen impacts your health.
  • Controls your serotonin levels. Serotonin is the neurological agent in your body that influences mood, appetite, memory, and other activities.
  • Stimulates contentment.
  • Waterfalls can soothe you.
  • Microorganisms in the soil also increase your serotonin levels.
  • Mycobacterium vaccae, a non-toxic microorganism mostly found in the ground, can function as a natural antidepressant by boosting the liberation and metabolism of serotonin in sections of the brain.
  • Also diminishes inflammation in your immune system.
  • Exercise provokes your endorphins.
  • Outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, and swimming encourage endorphin production in the brain.

For further reading, here is the attached link;
http://mentalfloss.com/article/60632/11-scientific-reasons-why-being-nature-relaxing

In short, being in nature is healthy for you and your body physically and mentally, as concluded and proven by the listed catalogue of health benefits, as well as the intriguing information about forest therapy. On a final note, I would love to encourage you to do as much nature bathing every day for as long as you can.

For those who are interested in reading more about forest bathing and nature therapy and its benefits, here are some links connected to forest bathing and health:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_forest_bathing_is_good_for_your_health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997467/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_nature_makes_you_kinder_happier_more_creative

https://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrist/2017/06/15/the-science-behind-how-nature-affects-your-health/#4300598415ae

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/positive-effects-of-nature/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517717300961

Some health benefits of nature therapy;

  • Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings.
  • Exposure to nature makes you feel better emotionally.
  • Contributes to your physical wellbeing.
  • Reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.




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