The Heath Benefits behind Forest Bathing

Last Sunday we all went Forest Bathing at nearby Tyningham Woods on the Coast in East Lothian.  Forest bathing is no more complicated than simply going for a wander in your local woods or park. The only difference is that rather than walking for exercise, you take the time to really focus on the natural world around you; from the rays of sunlight catching the leaves to birdsong echoing from the canopy.

 

Today’s busy lives can have a significant impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle for a while, why not have a go at forest bathing? Despite the name you won’t need to pack your swimsuit (although that is my usual escape): it simply means the practice of slowing down and immersing yourself in the forest atmosphere.

Forest bathing or ‘shinrin-yoku’ was first developed in Japan in the 1980s following scientific studies conducted by the government. The results showed that two hours of mindful exploration in a forest could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improve concentration and memory. They also found that trees release chemicals called phytoncides.  They have an anti-microbial effect on human bodies, boosting the immune system. As a result of this research, the Japanese government introduced ‘shinrin-yoku’ as a national health programme.

Over the last few years, forest bathing has begun to gain popularity in the UK. Many of us naturally head outside as a way to unwind and feel refreshed.  The benefits of ‘nature therapy’ are also backed up by science: in 2018 academics at the University of Derby found that improving a person’s connection with nature led to significant increases in their wellbeing.

Top Tips for Forest Bathing

1- Turn off your phone.  Only pull out your device or phone to photograph the magical surroundings.
2- Walk slowly looking upwards.  Take in the light and shadows.
3- Become aware of your breathing.  Take long inhalation at different stages of your walk and let your body relax in to the exhale.
4- Pick a quiet time of day to go when not many people will be around to distract you.
5- Stay in the forest for as long as you like however 2 hours is recommended.
6- Use all your senses.  As well as sight, touch the moss, bark on trees and smell the forest air around you.

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our Forest Bathing session and all agreed that we came away feeling more relaxed and energized by the Forest and Beach.  We acknowledged the surroundings, commented on the autumnal colours, and enjoyed the many shades of green we saw, as well as listening to the relaxing sound from the birds sing-song in the trees.

 

Photography | Laura Thomas

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