Why spending time in nature is good for your health
Whether walking, gardening, or watching a beautiful sunset, many of us enjoy spending time in nature. There is actually a term for this concept: forest bathing (translated from the Japanese term “shinrin-yoku”), which simply refers to the act of immersing yourself in nature.
In fact, there is growing scientific research showing that forest bathing has numerous benefits for your physical health and well-being. Spending time in a natural environment has been shown to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress-related hormone levels.
Forest bathing can also improve mood, reduce stress, and leave you feeling more energized.
How does forest bathing work?
Despite what the name suggests, you do not need to go to a forest to experience the benefits of forest bathing. Any natural area, including beaches, parks, lakes, nearby trails, is great—the key is to find a place where you can focus your senses in a natural environment.
Forest bathing can be practiced in many different ways, but here are few tips to keep in mind so you can most fully experience the benefits of forest bathing.
1. Focus on the breath
Start by taking a few deep breaths and center yourself. Be curious about each inhale and exhale. Try to find an even rhythm and settle into it. Whenever you are distracted, recenter your thoughts on the breath.
2. Engage your senses and experiment
Use your eyes, nose, ears, and touch to experience your surroundings. If you are sitting in a safe and comfortable location, try shutting your eyes. Be curious about the sounds and smells of your natural environment. Notice the texture of the bark on a tree or the smell of a forest after the rain.
3. Turn off or silence any electronic devices
You want to pay attention to the here and now. Nothing snaps you out of that like a phone call or vibration.
4. Keep safety in mind
Whenever possible, bring a buddy with you or alert someone of exactly where you will be. Stay on marked trails and be careful on uneven terrain, roots, and other tripping hazards. Bring water and wear sun protection and be aware of your surroundings, including wildlife and poisonous plants.
The most important aspect of forest bathing is simply to relax and be present. Fitting in 20 minutes of forest bathing every day is ideal, but it shouldn’t feel like a chore. Try sharing the experience with friends and family and explore new places—you never know what you’ll find!