The newest craze to travel from California to the rest of the country is Forest Bathing. Originating in Japan, this activity is referred to as a ‘fitness trend,’ but I think it’s another way to practice mindfulness. I understand that when you forest bathe, you are moving your body, but you’re also doing some powerful things to your brain.
A Washington Post article informs that “Americans spend 87 percent of their time indoors and 6 percent in an enclosed vehicle.” That’s kind of shameful, that we as a nation spend only 7 percent of our time outdoors. It probably contributes to the levels of obesity and poor health conditions in so many people, too.
Forest Bathing is when you go out into nature to slow down and purposefully enjoying the environment, the sounds, the smells and everything you can see. Studies completed on forest bathing, called ‘Shinrin-yoku’ document that the practice makes you healthier. We know that exercise – basic movement really, is what our body needs to function at a high level. It affects our body and our brain. It impacts our longevity. The interesting thing about forest bathing is that it takes the benefits of exercise and movement outdoors to a higher level. In Japan, Shinrin-yoku is considered a medicinal option and is covered by health insurance.
Increased energy, reduced stress and increased accuracy and creativity are all wonderful byproducts of movement outdoors. As pointed out in many blog posts on this website, you can begin to gain these benefits in as little as a 10 minute walk outside.
People who practiced forest bathing were compared to people who walked in an urban environment and the forest bathers results showed they had reduced stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure than the city walkers. Although we can’t go forest bathing in most of our cubicle farm positions, maybe trying to get into nature more after work and weekends would benefit us during the week at the office. If nothing else it would help to change our personal percentages and increase that 7 percent time outdoors to the double digits.
I’m thinking now of locations I could try to forest bathe in the Washington, DC metro area, where I am based. Maybe some areas of Rock Creek Park could qualify. Is forest bathing an option you might consider?