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Can ‘Forest Bathing’ Lead To A Less Stressful Life?

Hike in the woods

Remember when you were a kid and your parents made you feel guilty for not going outside? Well now scientists are pulling that on you as an adult. Turns out spending time in natural wooded areas each day offers inner and outer health benefits.

Studies in Japan observed the physiological effects of shinrin-yoku, otherwise known as “forest bathing”. Plainly put, this is walking through a forest or wooded nature area as a means of exercise and relaxation. Easy, right?

Sixteen male subjects were observed after one day-trip to the forest and one to the city, demonstrating that the visit to the forest had positive effects on their health. Blood pressure and stress hormones were significantly lower while in the forest. Additionally, some low hormone levels associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity were found at increased levels.

In a way, this goes hand in hand with the negative health benefits of sitting in traffic or at a desk all day. We already know that sitting in traffic can quite possibly lead to depression, loneliness, obesity and early death, so why not counteract the negativity of your commute by taking a walk as an after work relaxation retreat?

If you don’t live near the woods, start off with a walk through the nearest park and devote a few hours on the weekend to visiting a nature trail. Do it alone or with a coworker, with your significant other, or with the kids. Get out there and enjoy the smells, sounds and surroundings of nature.

Not convinced nature is your “thing?” Well let me tell you this. Last week I went on a mini hike with a friend and actually enjoyed myself. The entire time. As someone who thinks camping is an awful travesty that happens to you and cannot understand why every man on a dating site lists “camping” and “hiking” in their interests, that is huge. Not only did I enjoy it but I wanted to do it the next day. In fact, I’m making morning walks with a cup of tea a regular thing as a way to help me relax before opening my inbox and taking on the day. It’s wondrous, I tell you… as long as you wear some all-natural bug spray.

If you can’t cut down on your commute or spend fewer hours at the desk, consider forest bathing as a daily part of your routine. It’s free, all-natural and one of the most environmentally friendly activities you can do. Seriously. Stress is a leading trigger for all sorts of health issues, so if there is a free way to lower them without selling your soul, shouldn’t you be riding it all the way to good health? I think so.

Image: © Mandy Adwell [Photo I took on a hike last week. I could probably get used to this.]

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