If you’re like me, there are many times when all of the hustle and bustle of daily life starts to get to you. You may think to yourself, “I need a break”, “I need a vacation”, or “I need to get away”. Maybe you even picture yourself lounging on a beach, getting cozy in a winter cabin, or even just enjoying some alone time in your backyard. It’s not hard to understand why daily stress or monotony may make us feel the need to escape. In a world that’s constantly outgrowing the simplicity of nature, our bodies crave it now more than ever.
What is Nature Bathing?
Known as an expert in forest medicine, Dr. Qing Li explains nature bathing as follows,
“Shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.”
Dr. Li believes that nature bathing bridges the gap between us and the natural world. Through this activity, we can slow down, unplug, and relax. Some find that submerging yourself in nature, whether you’re sitting in the midst of it or just walking through, can be a form of meditation. You are allowing yourself to soak in the natural remedies that nature offers, while also appreciating the beauty of the scenery, sounds, smells, and textures. Nature bathing is even known to have numerous health benefits.
What are the Benefits of Nature Bathing?
Many studies conducted between 2010 and 2017 suggest incredible health benefits from nature bathing. Researchers found that nature baths could lead to a higher production of anti-cancer proteins and a reduction in anxiety and blood pressure. This practice has also been proven to increase energy and focus, improve mood, improve sleep, and boost the immune system. While these positive responses may be a result of removing oneself from a hectic environment, the surrounding flora also plays a role. According to this Mercy Health article,
“Trees release special compounds into the air called phytoncides. These particles may be partly responsible for the positive effects on blood pressure, natural killer cells, stress, and your immune system. Some trees also release a substance called D-limonene, which may decrease inflammation in your body”.
Naturally, we crave the outdoors. Even if you are not the “outdoorsy” type, our bodies need what nature provides. This could mean sunlight, oxygen, or even an escape from the desk and computer screen. The bottom line is to figure out the best way for you to connect with nature.
How Does Nature Bathing Work?
After hearing all the benefits of nature bathing, of course, you may be wondering how exactly you should go about doing it. Are there special bathing techniques? How long should one trip take? Do I need to bring anything? For a full and authentic experience, Mercy Health recommends you leave all electronics and distractions at home or in your car. Dr. Li suggests walking aimlessly, taking your time, and letting your body guide you.
The goal is to focus solely on the nature that surrounds you and find calm in its complex simplicity. Like many things, this experience will differ for everyone. Some may only need an hour or two of bathing at a time, while others may find a multi-day nature getaway most beneficial. Some may find a deeper connection with nature while it rains, while others prefer a warm and sunny day. Although nature bathing is also called forest bathing, you do not have to be in a forest specifically. Anywhere is fine as long as there are trees and other natural surroundings. If you’re not sure what is best for you, it’s ok to try different nature settings and conditions until you find one that feels most peaceful to you.
If you are interested in nature bathing and want to take a deeper dive, feel free to contact me! I am always happy to help you on your journey. I offer in-person appointments as well as HIPAA-compliant virtual options.