Forest Bathing: The Ultimate Therapy to Boost Your Health and Reduce Stress
By Meritxell Solé
It’s widely assumed that escaping the noise and stress of the city to spend some time in nature is good for us. In recent years, several studies have added to a growing literature on the positive effects of spending time outdoors on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Some of the most interesting evidence of the health benefits of nature is coming out of Japan. In 1982, the Forest Agency of Japan premiered its Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” plan to encourage people to spend time in green spaces to promote a healthy lifestyle and decrease stress levels. The term Shinrin-yoku can be defined as making contact with and taking in the atmosphere of the forest, a process that is intended to improve an individual’s state of mental and physical relaxation.
Researchers are now seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest people are physically and mentally healthier when they interact with nature. Indeed, studies conducted in the last few years show forest bathing helps us reduce anxiety, brooding, and stress; lower risk of depression; improve mood and energy levels; and increase a component of the immune system that fights cancer.
People from two million years ago had a deep relationship with forests. In fact, human bodies are made to adapt to nature; however, we just passed the halfway point recently where 50 percent of humanity lives in urban areas. We have been living in artificial environments since we were born, spending more and more time indoors and online—especially children—and because of that, our bodies are constantly under stress. In fact, if we go to the root of the present ecological crisis, we will find a state of disconnection. In a context where medical expense is becoming a problem, nature therapy acts as preventive medicine and helps the body be more resilient and not get sick. When you expose yourself to nature, your body relaxes, and the immune system recovers. Therefore, forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.
Forest bathing is possible anywhere in the world where there is a patch of decent forest—generally defined as land with a tree-canopy cover of more than 10 per cent and area of more than 0.5 ha. Take contemplative walks through the woods and engage with nature using all your five senses: take off your shoes and sink your bare feet into the grass; breathe in the colors, shapes, textures and sounds. Forest therapy combines mindfulness and spending time in nature—two activities that have restorative properties on their own—to yield significant health advantages and make you happier, perhaps even smarter, and more creative. Just get out there and let nature transform your day and, eventually, heal you.
Come visit the Vía Orgánica Eco Ranch, located in the outskirts of Los Picachos mountain range. Enjoy magnificent nature while learning about organic regenerative agriculture, natural building techniques, and sustainable living.