What is Forest Bathing?
I consider myself a domestic creature—the kind of animal whose ‘wild’ habitat includes modern comforts like fast wifi, hot water heaters for tea, and TempurPedic mattresses. That said, I still try to get a monthly forest bath. One of my goals for 2016 is to try for a forest bath twice monthly. If I’m being honest, I’d probably do a lot better if I lived near a forest and got my dosage daily.
Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku), or Forest Therapy, is more or less defined as a leisurely visit to the woods or other more-or-less wild space. In short: it’s spending a little time goofing around in the woods and getting your skin against the earth. But, does this have any benefits? You bet your peer reviewed scientific journals it does! Many of these studies are free to read on Google Scholar, and easy to find with the key-words ‘Forest Bathing’.
And the benefits? Reductions in anxiety, anger, and depression were observed as well as an increase in natural killer (NK) cell activity. NK cells are a type of white blood cell that bind virus-infected and cancer cells for destruction. They serve as a kind of cleaner crew for the body, and limit the spread of tumors. So, despite their name, NK cells are highly beneficial for all of us. For more information, look up information on NK Cells or other types of lymphocytes.
If you can’t manage a Forest Bath, keeping a picture of a forest or a houseplant can help with depression. Even painting the room green can help.
Multiple days of forest bathing are better than a day trip. So if you can plan ahead and find a suitable location, give it a go. Most months, I attend a LARP event close to my area, and so I end up spending two days forest bathing while doing other things. It also makes for a good time to look for moss, interesting rocks, or sticks for crafting. Have you tried getting into the woods more often? If so, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear anyone else’s opinions on the benefits of forest bathing.