Forest Bathing 101
Nature’s Healing Bathtub: Songbirds, Cedar Oil, Tree Bark, Tea Root
(The second in a two-post blog series)
Forest bathing, which has nothing to do with water, is a research-based framework that helps promote healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. You can work with a trained forest therapy guide, or explore the lush, fragrant, peaceful forest on your own. Here are a few tips to help make your forest bath therapeutic, calming and uplifting:
Go for the green. Science shows that just five minutes communing with green nature boosts mood and self-esteem. There’s increased benefit if your session lasts between 20 and 45 minutes.
To get the most of your forest bath, pull the plug on everything else. No earbuds and music or online audiobook. No heart monitor. No Fitbit. No timing your progress. No goals. Simply engage all your senses completely in the forest and be present in the moment.
A day-long, monthly forest bath has long-lasting effects on your immune system. Evergreens and other trees release aromatic compounds known as phytoncides, which are shown to decrease levels of stress hormones; lower blood pressure; and increase production of the body’s anticancer proteins and natural killer immune cells, which fight tumors.
If you can’t get to a quiet, forest or green space easily, or aren’t feeling well enough to wander in the woods, simply viewing images of nature has a positive effect on health. (Study participants reported feeling happier after browsing scenic views, with hues of green and blue inducing the greatest positive effect).
In addition to forest bathing, research backs other mind-body practices that help to reduce distress and enhance well-being while living with cancer. They include meditation, guided breathing and imagery, yoga, Q i(chee) gong, tai chi, and more. Incorporating a mind-body practice into your daily routine can help you to self-manage emotional stress.
Aubrey, A. “Forest Bathing: A Retreat to Nature Can Boost Immunity and Mood.” Morning Edition. NPR News, WITF, 17, July, 2017. Retrieved from npr.org, August 10, 2017.
Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 44(10), 3947-3955.
Clay, R. (2001). Green is good for you. American Psychological Association, 32(4), 40.
Herzog, A. M., Black, K. A., Fountaine, D. J., & Knotts, T. R. (1997). Reflection and attentional recovery as two distinctive benefits of restorative environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 17, 165-170.
Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Dasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): Evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), 18-26.
Selhub, E. & Logan, A. (2014). Your brain on nature. Mississagua, Ontario, Canada: John Wiley & Sons, Canada Ltd.