In the season of keeping company and connection, we celebrate with bright colours and some living greens brought indoors. Imagine how those fresh and fragrant greens could lift our moods and even improve our health if we enjoy them in their original setting. You’ll just have to come outside to experience their wellness bounty directly in your nearest park or forest. Immersing yourself in the health benefits served up any time and freely just outside your door, or nearby, is called ‘tree bathing’. Read on to find out why Dr. Moondust is a big fan of tree bathing and why it is one of our favourite beauty and wellness activities this year!
Early awareness in the USA was noted by E. O. Wilson, an American biologist who said humans are “hardwired” to connect with the natural world. We crave it and why not? Let’s look at the positive effect Mother Nature’s stately trees have on human health.
The art of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, truly began in Japan. In fact, Japan began a nationwide program that encouraged it, back in 1982. By 2004, a study formally linked forests and human health and now almost three million people walk forest trails all over the lush, green forests and urban parks of Japan. They do it to enhance their health and reduce stress.
As a stressed student, Dr. Qing Li, now a medical doctor in Japan, began to research this option to lighter living. He is the author of “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness”. He studied and corroborated the benefits, only some of which we share with you here.
Dr. Li measured moods of study participants before and after walking in the woods or if they lived, as he did, in a highly urban environment, then a park would do! He saw beyond the accepted experience of simply walking anywhere outdoors, which indeed reduces depression, anxiety, and anger. His reporting showed that the experience of walking in a forest could also reduce fatigue and improve a person’s vigor.
How to do forest bathing?
To elevate your walk in the wood to full forest bathing, Dr. Li has some suggestions.
Once you’ve accepted Mother Nature’s invitation to join her, the rest he assures us just happens with these little tips:
Find your special spot
You’ll want to find a good source of nature. A forest is fine, but to enjoy the benefits of forest bathing, any green area will do.
Can you get to an urban park, a trail through some nearby suburban woods or nature preserve? Conifer forests are thought to be particularly beneficial – do you recall hearing of the study of student IQ increasing after they were taken on forest bathing walks? Yes, it remained elevated after their pine forest walk for a while – long enough to score higher on exams they took right after.
Listen to your body
Where does your body want to take you? Do you, for example prefer shady trails or sunny hikes? Your body has wisdom maintains Dr. Li and you might like to listen to it.
Pay attention with all your senses
Nature is ready to flood you with pleasant feeling and it will take any port of entry through your senses! Look at, feel, smell, touch, and hear all the bounty.
No need to rush, is there?
Beginners should start with slow walking. Take as much time as you can spend on the experience.
How long before ‘something happens’? Well, you should notice some positive effects after 20 minutes but Dr. Li, recommends a longer visit, if possible. From his observations and studies, four hours is better. It’s his ideal
Should you only walk?
You are free in the open air to walk or to try different activities.
You might try yoga, meditation or Tai chi in your woodland setting.
Why not take along a picnic or linger in the forest sanctuary as you write a letter, a poem or simply observe the life of the plants near you.
Forest bathing can be done solo or with companions. In Japan, in fact their parks may even have a forest walking therapists on hand to help people with their medical questions in relation to the benefits of Shinrin-Yoku.
Sounds of silence
Most of all, you’ll notice after your first steps into your chosen forest spot, the quiet. A respite from the ever-present noise of city living.
Silence restores and allows you to enjoy the subtle rustling of leaves, movement of branches and the healing sounds of birds singing around you or water trickling nearby.
You may even find a favourite tree to visit. See how you measure up on your forest walk to nature’s awesome size and variety of life.
What if you can’t get outside?
If for whatever reason you can’t get outdoors, try infusing essential tree oils in your home. This can provide you benefits. Benefits can also be derived from simply looking at greenery and foliage.
In a season where we reflect on our world and what we can share, seems like forest bathing is a natural addition to life and living well with others and ourselves.
Happy holidays and here’s to your health and well-being this season and into the New Year, from Dr. Moondust and the whole Moondust Cosmetics® family.
Breathe deeply and walk slowly in a forest near you.
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