Written By Karl VonBerg.

Posted on March 24th, 2016.

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Have you ever thought of taking a bath in the woods? Sounds crazy, but forest bathing is good for your health. This isn’t stripping down and scrubbing with a pine cone (ouch!). Forest bathing is simply spending some relaxing time in the woods to let the woods wash over you.

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Have you ever thought of taking a bath in the woods? Sounds crazy, but forest bathing is good for your health. And let me make sure we’re on the same page: this isn’t stripping down and scrubbing with a pine cone (ouch!). Forest bathing is simply spending some relaxing time in the woods to let the woods wash over you.

appreciate beauty and scenery on my woodlot

Forest bathing got its start in Japan, where researchers discovered that a leisurely walk in the woods leaves people calmer and rejuvenated. They call it shinrin yoku, which translates literally as “forest bathing.”

Shinrin yoku definitely works for me. When I’m frustrated, I’ll head out in the woods for a while. That time helps me be less uptight and think more clearly.

In case you think this is just in your head (or mine!), think again. Scientific studies have shown that forest bathing:

  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves mood
  • Boosts immune system function by increasing the number of natural killer cells (white blood cells that fight cancer cells) in your body.
  • Increases the ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerates recovery from surgery
  • Increases energy level
  • Improves sleep

How does forest bathing create all these benefits? Some of it has to do with oils given off by certain tree species (cedar, beech, and oak have been demonstrated to do this) that we breathe in as we spend time in the woods. Our bodies respond to these compounds by increasing white blood cell count. In one study, the benefits of a 3 day, 2 night stay in the woods lasted 30 days.

Scientists don’t know all the reasons why walking in the woods has so many positive benefits. But hey, we don’t need to know why something works to take advantage of it. Do you know how your computer works?

Getting started with forest bathing is easy. Just take a leisurely walk in your own woods or go to a state or county forest. You don’t need a large wooded area. Even in cities you can go to a local park and spend time walking through the trees. According to Dr. Qing Li, a senior assistant professor at Nippon Medical School, a 2 hour walk in the woods or a park with trees can increase vigor and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Even if you can’t spare that much time, that’s ok. Every little bit helps. Can you get out for fifteen minutes over lunch? How about after work?

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Remember, this isn’t about strenuous exercise. When you forest bathe, walk slowly. Take time to use all five senses to notice your surroundings. See the plants, but also feel the crunch of your shoes on the path, hear the water in a nearby stream, and smell the breeze on your face. Breathe deeply and drink in the rejuvenating bath that is nature.


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