Forest bathing: 6 tips for new strength from nature
Long walks in nature are healing and have a positive effect on your well-being. This has been scientifically proven. Intuitively, people are also drawn to nature for various ailments. Forest bathing plays with this phenomenon. We’ll tell you what forest bathing is and exactly how it works.
Everyone should go forest bathing regularly and get fresh air. It’s best to spend several days in the great outdoors. Breathing fresh air can help you to be more calm and relaxed.
Shinrin-Yoku: the therapy from Japan
More and more people today are suffering from stress-related illnesses such as burnout. Job expectations and social pressure are taking a toll on many people.
Many suffer the consequences of constant tension and are affected by sleep disorders and inner restlessness. They feel overwhelmed in their daily lives and are constantly under power.
To stay healthy, it is important to create a suitable balance to these stressful situations. There should be enough time for relaxation.
There are countless ways you can successfully relax. Relaxation techniques, which you can apply specifically for inner balance, are another way to free yourself from stress.
The new trend of forest bathing is said to work in a similar way. A conscious walk in nature is supposed to provide the necessary relaxation here.
The trend comes from Japan and is called "shinrin-yoku", which means as much as "bathing in the forest air". Forest medicine is even taught at universities in Japan and researched in detail.
Shinrin-yoku has existed in Japan for decades and is offered as a therapy method by some medical specialists. Forest bathing is also a recognized therapy in the USA. Meanwhile the trend arrived also in Europe.
Already some books appeared to this topic. Researchers are also looking more closely at the phenomenon of forest bathing.
What forest bathing does
Contrary to what one might first assume, forest bathing does not refer to bathing in forest waters, but to consciously perceiving nature. During forest bathing you perceive nature with all your senses.
The sight of green trees and pure nature has a calming effect. You can smell the musty scent of the forest, feel the rough bark of the trees and hear the constant rustling of the bushes.
The beauty of nature encourages you and calms your mind. In this way you take more and more distance from your stressful everyday life.
The positive effects of shinrin-yoku have already been investigated in numerous studies. These confirm that a trip to the forest for several days can strengthen the immune system and even protect against cancer.
Not only the body but also the psyche benefits from a forest excursion. In the case of depressive moods and burnout, shinrin-yoku can be a real stress valve and relieve internal pressure. So it’s worth taking a little time out and planning a trip to the forest.
Humans are part of nature. In everyday life, however, this aspect of being human can be forgotten. Many people live in big cities where the cityscape is dominated by skyscrapers and asphalt.
Although there are extensive parks in many large cities, excursions into nature are often neglected. People lose awareness of their natural origins. Forest bathing can help to create a connection to nature, which strengthens people physically and mentally.
How to intensify your experience of nature
Forest bathing can be a real benefit. It has been proven to help with stress and can provide a more relaxed approach to life.
In order to enjoy all the benefits of forest bathing, you should consider some aspects that will make your trip even more relaxing. After all, not every trip to the forest can necessarily be called forest bathing. The relaxation component should be the main focus of forest bathing.
Breathing exercises are a popular relaxation technique. You can influence how you feel physically with your breathing.
If you breathe slowly and deeply, your pulse calms down and you become calmer. If your breathing is fast and shallow, your pulse increases and you become nervous and anxious.
While bathing in the forest, you should pay attention to calm and deep breathing. In this way, you not only calm your body, but also benefit from the clean air of the forest.
Oxygen is produced by the photosynthesis of plants. In nature, oxygen is therefore particularly pure. The clean air is good for your body and increases happiness hormones.
All living beings communicate with each other in different ways. While humans express themselves primarily with the help of speech and mimic and gesture, plants communicate with the help of chemical messengers through the air.
Humans absorb these substances with their breathing. This causes the immune system to be activated in the human body. The body’s own defenses are strengthened. The person is more resilient and can face his everyday life with renewed strength.
Take your time
The full power of shinrin-yoku does not unfold after a few minutes.
In order for body and mind to benefit optimally from nature, you should spend several hours or even days in nature. The important thing is not the number of kilometers walked but the experience of nature.
Strenuous walks can increase your physical stress level. It is better to take a leisurely walk and spend some time in a beautiful place.
You should perceive nature with all your senses and not cover a certain distance as fast as possible without even being aware of it.
For stress management, you should spend at least one day in nature. You should set a minimum of four hours for this. If you want to strengthen your immune system with forest bathing, a day trip is not enough. In this case you should spend several days in nature. However, two to three days can be enough.
It is a good idea to combine forest bathing with a wellness weekend. Try to spend at least four hours a day in nature. After that you can go to a wellness hotel and treat yourself to massages, sauna sessions and warming baths for additional relaxation.
Taking time out also means freeing yourself from everyday stressors. This includes putting the smartphone aside for once and being unavailable.
The smartphone is one of the biggest stress factors of today. Constant accessibility increases social and professional pressure enormously. That’s why it’s important to give yourself a break and let your smartphone rest for a few hours.
Schedule recovery phases
To further reduce the exertion of shinrin-yoku, you should schedule additional recovery phases. If the hike is too strenuous for you, you can sit on a tree stump and rest a bit.
Breathe in and out consciously. Take in the different smells and be aware of your surroundings. You should not get tired by forest bathing, instead it should give you new energy. That’s why you should regularly include small periods of relaxation.
You can combine forest bathing with meditations. Just walking through the forest can be meditative. If you focus on your breathing while doing this, you can combine these two meditative aspects.
If you want, you can also take a book with you and read it during the recovery phases. This can also be meditative.
The important thing is that your thoughts calm down and your attention rests on one particular thing.
Customize forest bathing to your individual needs
If you want to try shinrin-yoku once, you can purchase a book on the subject beforehand. This can inform you comprehensively about forest bathing and give you the individual steps exactly.
It can be helpful for you if you orientate yourself by these standards. However, it is better to design forest bathing according to your individual needs. Arrange your recovery periods as you see fit. You don’t have to meditate or read. Incorporate as many breaks as you feel necessary. Walk at the pace you feel most comfortable.
You should also choose a place based solely on how you feel. You can find many recommendations on the Internet. Of course, there are particularly beautiful routes, but even the nearest forest can be sufficient for the purpose of forest bathing.
The period in which you want to do forest bathing should also correspond to your wishes. If forest bathing for several days is not an option for you, you can try it for a few hours.
Half a day or two hours can be sufficient for the beginning. In this way you can slowly increase. After a while, you might even consider an excursion lasting several days.
The important thing is that forest bathing should be a completely individual experience. This also means that you should do it alone. You should spend some time alone in nature. Only then can you fully focus on the beauty of nature. However, your safety should be in the foreground.
The risk of getting lost or injured is higher when you do so. Forest bathing can become a stressful situation. Relaxation can not occur in this way.
Pack enough provisions
To make sure you can last a few hours in the woods, you should pack enough provisions. This includes a bottle of water and snacks like granola bars and raw vegetables.
For longer trips, you should also take a larger meal with you. Sandwiches and salads are good choices.
If you are traveling alone, you should be prepared for emergencies. Therefore, take more food than necessary.
It can easily happen that you underestimate your appetite. Make sure that your backpack is not too heavy. After all, the trip should be relaxing and involve as little physical exertion as possible.
Forest bathing training
Various places in different countries offer training for forest bathing. This is especially interesting for alternative practitioners, meditation teachers, environmental educators, relaxation educators and burnout coaches.
Forest bathing can complement therapies in these areas and open up new therapeutic possibilities. The training is usually completed within a few days and costs a few hundred euros.
It deals with mindfulness, meditation, breathing and physical exercises as well as with the effects of forest bathing on the body and nature conservation. Sometimes training to become a forest bathing course leader can be funded with a education voucher.