I was standing in the kitchen, staring out the window and slicing gorgeous fresh strawberries for my breakfast. No worries – I don't actually use the knife when staring outside.
My husband was watching a program in the next room, and I heard a phrase I’d never heard before. TV sounds usually are just background noise for me, except for those annoyingly loud commercials – why is it they are so much louder than the program?! I digress….
The words that hit my ears were “forest bathing” - a term I’d never heard before.
Quite intrigued, my first thought was – “What? People hanging out naked in the woods?” (As much as I love nature and hiking, exposing my body parts to insects of all sorts was never going to be my thing.)
Curiosity got the best of me and I made my way to the next room. I was fascinated. It seems this relaxation and stress management activity, which originated in Japan in the early ‘80s was spreading and had hit the U.S. (well, sort of the U.S. - in California, which is always way ahead of the rest of the country).
I always associate time in the woods with being active - hiking complete with devices tracking distance and speed. But this was not hiking, or even moving, at all.
Per Wikipedia, a forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation while breathing in volatile substances, called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees, such as a-pinene and limonene.
Cutting through all the scientific words - the bottom line – it’s just about hanging out in the woods and breathing.
I'd never thought about going into the woods to just hang out, but after I did think about it, I realized I always do feel something special after those hikes.
Perhaps it's just the physical activity? But I don’t have that same feeling after going to a gym (no offense to the gym – I always feel more energy after any workout, but this is different).
A combination of calm and vibrancy envelopes me.
In fact, I recall how I also always feel better even when I go outside for just a few minutes to take out the compost, fill the birdfeeder, and maybe grab a couple of weeds.
So this “forest bathing” concept isn’t so odd. The practice has been shown to elicit relaxation, lower cortisol levels, slow pulse rates, and reduce blood pressure.
If you’re anything like me, as a kid I couldn’t wait to go outside. There were times my siblings, friends and I spent from early morning until well past dark outside, with most of our meals eaten picnic-style.
And we were doing what actually comes naturally, communing with nature. We didn’t know that’s what we were doing – we just liked being there.
According to an article on chopra.com, “Humans are inextricably connected to nature, yet, according to calculations published by the Environmental Protection Agency, most Americans spend 90 percent of their lives indoors. It’s no secret that being in nature can feel amazing, but scientific research is catching up to what humans have intuitively felt all along—you need to get outside. For so many people, spending time in nature is the exception rather than the rule. Sure, the annual camping trip is wonderful, but what you really need to do is integrate outdoor time into your daily life.”
Sounds like time to create a new habit – for forest bathing. Time is a precious commodity for all of us, and I don’t realistically see myself making time for bathing on a regular basis, so perhaps I’ll make time for a quick forest shower instead.
There’s a heavily tree-lined area near me and I’m sure a five minute dose most days of the week can make a difference.
Hope you can do the same.
For more info, click to read the full article, including five reasons why nature is the new prescription for optimal health and well-being.
Wishing you the magic of the great outdoors!
P.S. Ready to create some healthy habits for yourself? That’s why I’m here. I can help you figure out what’s getting in the way between you and better choices. Let’s have a chat about how integrative health coaching works and find out if working together is a good fit. I offer a complimentary session and scheduling is easy with my online booking system: Schedule Now
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