With October being Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight a form of ecotherapy, Shinrin-Yoku, also known as forest bathing or woodland bathing. A term that emerged in Japan in the 1980's by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries - Shinrin meaning "forest" and Yoku meaning 'bath", this practice is still being implemented as a physiological and psychological treatment for overall well-being and mental health. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, lower heart rate, boost the immune system, aid sleeping troubles, and elevate feelings of happiness, creativity and contentment.
So, what exactly is forest bathing? Being subjected to a "5 senses experience" including sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing, while immersing oneself in nature. It is believed that this practice can help to completely calm the parasympathetic nervous system. This does not necessarily mean taking part in any physical activities, but simply spending time. This could be anything from a leisurely walk, a run, or a relaxing lay down in the grass. Even though the term emerged in the 80's, many cultures have been stressing the importance of spending time and connecting with nature for hundreds of years.
In today's society, forest bathing is seen as a way to disconnect from the additional stresses that come with modern life, such as work, social media, and the societal expectation to always "keep grinding". It has become so inherently accepted in society to ignore when the body is asking for rest, and instead push through and get things done. This is a prime example of denying your body what it needs and, as we know, if you don't make time for rest, your body will force it with ailments such as illness, depression, and burnout. Ecotherapy is a widely accessible option to improve one's mental health and can be done alone, with others, or through a guided walk with a trained professional. With some studies showing approximately a 71% positive statistics rate, participants have experienced lowered levels of depression and higher overall well-being, simply by being out in nature.
What's your favorite method for harnessing the numerous physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that the beautiful outdoors has to offer? Send us an email at [email protected] with your answer to enter to win a $15 gift card! Happy Forest Bathing!