How the great outdoors and a connection with nature can improve our well-being
In a world that is continuously go, go, go, many are wondering where they can turn to find a little peace and relaxation. Did you know that spending time in nature can improve our wellbeing and reduce stress? We’ve seen how incorporating indoor plants into spaces like work and the home can relieve negative emotions, but there are even simpler ways to manage these feelings; like spending time with Mother Nature otherwise known as “forest bathing.”
This term originated from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”). This natural practice simply encourages people to spend more time in nature. It’s intended to offer a natural solution to burnout and encourage humans to reconnect with forests to try and relieve mental strain and anxiety.
Dr. Qing Li, MD, PhD, professor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School in Japan and the founding chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, wrote the book “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness,” which has been translated into 26 languages for the world to enjoy. In his volume, Dr. Li speaks about how stress can bring on emotions such as depression, anxiety, anger, fatigue and confusion, and how connecting with the natural world through “shinrin-yoku” (forest bathing) can reduce tension and stress hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.
This natural method of stress relief is not just for the wilderness-lover; the practice can be as easy as walking in any natural environment and mindfully connecting with the what’s around you. In his book, Dr. Li suggests experiencing forest bathing through a “five sense experience” (vision, smell, hearing, touch and taste).
8 Forest Bathing Tips
According to him, when we walk slowly through the forest –keeping in tune with our sight, sound smell, taste and touch – we bring our rhythms into step with nature. Dr. Li says that shinrin-yoku is like a bridge, and by opening our senses it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. When we are in harmony with the natural world, we can begin to heal. He suggests following these steps while practicing forest bathing:
- Turn off all electronic devices.
- Make a plan based on your physical abilities and avoid tiring yourself out.
- Select a forest bathing course based on your aims.
- If you have an entire day, stay outdoors for about four hours and walk about three miles. If you have just a half-day, stay outdoors for two hours and walk about 1.5 miles.
- Take a rest whenever you are tired.
- Drink water/tea whenever you feel thirsty.
- Find a place you like, then sit for a while and read or enjoy the scenery.
- Forest bathing is a preventative measure; so if you are ill, see a doctor.
A good general guideline is to try and practice forest bathing for at least 20 minutes every day. If you don’t have that much time to spare, try starting with an even shorter amount of time. The goal of this stress relieving method is to relax and detach, so forest bathing shouldn’t feel like something dreadful. This Japanese practice should be an activity you look forward to and enjoy.
There are a multitude of ways to connect with the outdoors and relieve stress, whether that be through biophilic design, incorporating indoor and outdoor plants in your space, or utilizing practices like forest bathing to take the time to be with nature. Much like simply taking time to be outside, bringing the outdoors in has the potential to benefit your mental and physical health. Plant Solutions can get you started on adding nature into your daily routine.