Prescription Strength Nature. It seems that technology has replaced or replicated almost every type of …. well, everything, and there is a part of us that is human that screams to connect. Connect with each other, connect with ourselves, connect with nature, and connect with God. This innate desire is hardwired in us as humans, and now there is legit scientific proof for what we have known all along. Nature heals us. And now, Forest Bathing (also known as Forest Therapy, Nature Therapy or Nature Bathing) can actually help make you healthier, stronger and happier.
What is Forest Bathing?
Shinrin-yoku, which is often translated as “forest bathing” is a Japanese practice. It alludes to the fact that you “bathe” yourself in the atmosphere of the forest and nature. In it’s simplest form, Forest Bathing encourages you to breathe, relax, wander, touch, smell, and listen to nature. But, REALLY listen. REALLY wander. REALLY breathe. REALLY RELAX. In our world, that is a much harder task to accomplish than it seems.
Forest Bathing isn’t just a stroll through the trees, and it isn’t a challenging hike, either. It truly is a research-based framework that has been proven to support healing and wellness through natural environments. Studies have proven that it has demonstrable health benefits, especially in immune systems and cardiovascular systems, and can even stabilize mood and improve cognition.
Ok, just so we are clear here – I am not a doctor, and I don’t pretend to be a doctor (except when I’m googling some mysterious ailment I have, then I become a pseudo-expert in my own mind).
Obviously, if you have a medical condition, you need to visit with a REAL doctor if you have any medical conditions and not just walk around in a forest.
However, that said, check this next part out.
And just for laughs, here is more on Prescription Strength Nature:
Wait, Why Would We Even NEED This?
TL;DR – We are STRESSED OUT, people. VERY. STRESSED. OUT.
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According to Psychology Today, “we are now far removed from the natural world of our ancestors…more than 50% of people live in urban areas (increasing to >70% by 2050). Increased urbanization is associated with increased levels of mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression. Growing up in a rural setting correlates with a less acute stress response, and exposure to greenspace significantly correlates to a positive effect on well-being in a large two-decade study. Images and sounds of a natural environment can decrease stress in people exposed to negative stimuli. A large survey of mental health and neighborhood greenspace in Wisconsin showed significant correlation between the availability of nature and lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. There are many studies showing a similar relationship between nature exposure, relaxation, and well-being. But how does exposure to green space help us relax and unwind, exactly?”
Benefits of Forest Bathing and Nature Therapy
Here’s the deal. Scientists think that the trees themselves heal us. Apparently, the inhalation of phytoncides, which are the heavenly, aromatic oils with antibacterial properties released by trees, actually increase the activity of natural killer cells in our bodies. So, “bathing” in these tree scents actually heals us. But it’s much, much more than just that.
As previously stated, this type of therapy originated in Japan, where researchers have been studying its physiological and physical effects for decades. It appears that forest therapy does have actual, real live, measurable health benefits. If someone is in nature, it can lower cortisol by 13.4 percent in just 20 minutes! Lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and even a DRAMATIC increase in immune boosting cells are created just by nature therapy.
But wait, there’s more! These immune boosting cells can be shown to increase by 50% after spending three days in a forest, which can last up to one month!
According to Dr. Weil’s website, “Most recently, researchers from UK’s University of East Anglia analyzed 143 studies of forest therapy including data on some 290 million participants from 20 different countries. Not only was forest bathing associated with lower levels of cortisol, lower blood pressure and heart rate, it also lowered blood cholesterol and reduced rates of diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, asthma and death from heart disease. In addition, it was associated with decreased risk of preterm birth and lower all-cause mortality. Some studies suggested that forest therapy helped people sleep better and improved outcomes in those with cancer and neurological conditions. Finally, people exposed to forest therapy were found to be more likely to report that their overall health was good.”
The idea of Ecotherapy is also emerging in the field of ecopsychology, which stems from the belief that humans are part of the web of life and that we really aren’t isolated or separated from the environment that we live in. Shocking, right? These ecotherapy and nature therapy techniques can truly help healing. While still an emerging field, amazing results have been shown to demonstrate actual healing done regarding these techniques and activities.
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I know, I know, you NEED MORE CONVINCING for Prescription Strength Nature. Here you go:
How do you Actually DO Forest Bathing and Nature Therapy?
You can just walk. That’s it. It’s that easy, and it’s also that hard.
People take yoga classes and meditation classes because they find that it is hard for them to do it themselves. The discipline that it takes to sit and meditate, or to actually complete an entire hour of yoga is difficult to do alone. We seek out people to help us do those activities in a better quality way.
There are also now legitimate guides that will lead walks for forest bathing. These walks can last hours (2-4) and cover very little distance (maybe one mile). The point isn’t how far you go, how fast you go, or what you overcame. The point is to simply be. The whole point is to slow down, experience nature in a deeper way, and literally bathe yourself in it. Sights, smells, the whole world of nature.
But, you can’t walk the way you are used to walking. This isn’t hiking. This isn’t power walking. This isn’t exercise in the most traditional sense of the word. The point isn’t to get the heart rate up, but rather slowed down. Present. Mindful. Ultimately, those who engage in regular forest bathing typically do lead healthier lifestyles as a result. They are out in nature. They are walking. They are not sitting. And they aren’t eating fast food. They are simply “being” in nature.
Although it’s nice to get out into nature, as we all know, the truth is that to obtain the maximum health benefits of nature therapy or forest bathing, one walk in the woods isn’t going to cut it. Sure, it will help you relax and unwind. You will feel less stressed and more calm. However, one walk isn’t going to bestow the health benefits listed above.
Frankly, it’s like anything else in life. One day of good eating doesn’t make you healthy. One violin lesson doesn’t make you a virtuoso. And, one walk won’t reap the benefits either.
Association of Nature and Forest Therapy
The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) is the place to find the most information regarding nature therapy and forest bathing. According to their website, “ANFT has developed a specific approach to forest therapy that is widely emulated around the world. As of the end of 2018, we have trained over 600 guides who are working in 40 different countries on six continents. In every cultural context, the ANFT framework for forest therapy is providing the right combination of foundational structure and open-ended creativity for the practice to take root.”
Want more information on research? They have a TON. I am not kidding. Study after study was done that shows that a multitude of ailments can be relieved from nature bathing. Just a few are: headaches, stress, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, and the list goes on and on and on and on and ON!
If this sounds like mindfulness, then you are spot on. Maybe you can’t get out into the forest or nature every day. Take a little piece of that with you to do at home. Find ways to pray, speak to God (or listen is even better – I have a tendency to just talk and talk and talk and God can’t get a word in edgewise!) or meditate. I heard someone say once that praying is speaking to God, and meditating is listening to Him. Find ways to become mindful of the life you live, the way you are, and the world around you.
Even if you can’t get out into nature, leave your screen and leave technology. Even if it’s just for a little bit. Those breaks in your day reset your system, and give your brain and body a rest until it can get back out into nature.
According to an article by the Cleveland Clinic, “Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment with intention, without judging….Forest therapy involves noticing and sensing things rather than judging or evaluating.”
Want to Learn More?
The book, Forest Therapy, is a great read that will show you practical ways to actually implement Nature Therapy into your everyday life (even in bad weather when you can’t get outside!) The synopsis says it best! “Forest bathing is a rising trend, but what to do if you’re not near the woods or if the weather is dreary? Forest Therapy offers practical steps and inspiration to tap into nature’s restorative power, no matter the season or the weather. Chapters address ideas for all four seasons, as well as ways to use experiences in nature as ways to deepen your relationships with your children, partner, and friends. Ivens’s creative ideas and strategies range from a simple walk in the woods and countryside couples’ therapy to DIY natural beauty products and simple ways to bring the great outdoors into your home. Illustrated with charming black-and-white line art, Forest Therapy is a warm, witty, and personal guide to improving your health, finding happiness, and living a fabulous al fresco life.”
The other major book regarding Nature Bathing is Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature. In Your Guide to Forest Bathing you’ll discover a path–along with specific activities presented by Amos Clifford, one of the world’s most experienced forest bathing experts–that you can use to begin a practice of your own. Whether you’re in a forest or woodland, public park, or just your own backyard, this book will be your personal guide as you explore the natural world in a way you may have never thought possible.
Get Your Dose of Prescription Strength Nature
Just in case you needed one last push, here is a final argument to convince you about Prescription Strength Nature.
When I first heard of forest bathing or nature therapy, I’ll admit I did my fare share of snickering. But, we all know, deep down inside that the beauty that God created out there was meant to be enjoyed, savored, and marinated in.
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So, get out there. Today. And instead of racing up that hill, or hiking like someone is chasing you, stop and actually smell the flowers. It will do wonders for your soul, and apparently wonders for your health as well.
At the end of the day, ask your doctor if Prescription Nature is right for you!
Adieu for now!