I’m a big fan of walking in nature to promote health and happiness. This goes over and above the need for exercise. I was delighted to find that many shared my experience. In fact this therapeutic Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or the art and science of how trees can promote health and happiness is known as forest bathing. Known benefits of forest bathing are:
- the concept of lowering (stress) cortisol levels and blood pressure,
- strengthening your immune and cardiovascular systems,
- boosting your energy, mood, creativity, and concentration,
- and can even help you lose weight and live longer
First identified by Dr Qing Li in the 80’s, there is an increasing body of scientific evidence to back forest bathing. At its most simple level Shinrin–Yoku means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. It is becoming a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine, and has global recognition.
More than anything forest bathing is about being in the moment, commonly known as mindfulness.
Try these ideas and feel your mind calm and overwhelm slip away:
- Walk super slow along a bush path – slow your breath, do this as peacefully as you can. As little as 5 minutes will make a difference, but aim to increase the time you do this each day up to 30 minutes or so – or
- Stand or sit in the bush – any set of trees is fine, an urban park will do nicely (but the more away from urban noise the better). Stand or sit nice and close to a tree and find a point of focus. Any tree that appeals to you will do. Focus on the texture, variety of colours, or any insects you may now notice.
- Regardless of whether you are walking or sitting what do you hear? Can you hear birds, rustling of the leaves, the wind, distant voices or car noise perhaps?
- What can you feel? Is it warm or cold on your skin? As you breath in and out your nose can you notice a different air temperature that you are inhaling? Can you feel the air brush past your nasal hairs? Is the air flow the same left and right nostril – or different? If different can you equal this up?
- What can you smell? Are the smells earthy, or eucalypt, or grassy?
This multi-sensory investigation can take place over 5 to 30 minutes and will give you an immediate sense of quiet and calm that can last for days, even weeks. Try it? 5 minutes is all it takes.
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Jo Cordell-Cooper operates the award winning business Jo CC Holistic PT, offers personal training, stress management strategies, preparation for hiking workouts, and adventure travel to multi-day hikes, locally and overseas. Join us on facebook in my free group Holistic Personal Training for more healthy lifestyle tips and tricks.