Back to all articles

The Woods Heal: Why Forest Bathing?

“You’re surrounded by steam rising off the mineral water in a claw foot bath, rose petals floating on the surface. Scents of pine from the surrounding forest, the dense trees providing your privacy. You’re naked. You don’t hear a sound, other than birds chirping, a squirrel scuffling on the trees above you. All your senses are awake and alive. You’re experiencing the ultimate recharge.”

“I’m in,” my friend says. “Where do we do this… forest bathing.”

Okay, okay I’ve exaggerated a bit. Forest bathing isn’t necessarily “bathing” in a bathtub in a forest. But it does stimulate all of the senses and provide for the ultimate recharge. Studies have shown the quantifiable health benefits, both mental and physical, and the positive impact of forest bathing on our immune function.¹

Enjoyed by humans for many years, forest bathing was first introduced in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan as part of a good lifestyle, and is since become a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan.² The quiet atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and clean fresh air in forests contribute to the natural healing and stress-relieving powers. Forest bathing involves visiting a forest for a leisurely stroll and relaxation while breathing in the anti-microbial, wood essential oils called phytoncides.

Connection to cannabis Phytoncides and cannabis oil share a similar constituent – those precious terpenes. Terpenes in cannabis oils provide for added benefits and enhanced entourage effect.

 

THE SCIENCE

As we search for ways to balance the stresses of life, the forest may provide an answer. Habitual forest bathing may decrease the risk of psychosocial stress-related diseases. The results of a study using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) test demonstrated that forest bathing significantly increased the score for vigor and decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, and anger. Another study decreased significantly the moods of hostility and depression and increased liveliness.³ With many studies conducted on the environment’s contribution to our health, conclusions have been made of the advantageous effect on our emotional well-being, reduction in chronic stress, and boost in immune system function.

Phytoncides (essential oils) from trees were studied in a lab to determine their impact on our human natural killer (NK) activity, the powerhouses behind our immune system function. NK cells have been reported to kill tumors or virus-infected cells in the presence of phytoncides extracted from the Japanese cedar trees. Other data from the lab indicated phytoncides significantly enhanced human NK activity. After measuring the levels of urinary cortisol and dopamine, the citrus fragrance found in forests affected human endocrine and immune systems. The science then shows that a forest bathing trip may be an answer to restoring your balance.

Where To Start

Here are some suggestions for awakening nature’s healing power while forest bathing.

Step 1: PAUSE

As you prepare to enter the forest rest your mind and your breath and stop for a moment to close your eyes and reset. Show gratitude to Mother Earth for the splendor of the forests. Giving attention and appreciation to the experience allows balance and healing to emerge.

Step 2: SENSE

Bring awareness to your five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch). As you walk allow your mind to travel and move your eyes and body slowly, mindfully. Engage with the trees, touch the bark, feeling the energy of the earth vibrating from within. Notice the detail of the wood, intricacy of leaves, vibrancy of the meadows. Take in all detail in all forms.

Step 3: UNDERSTAND

Listen to the sounds of your footsteps, the animals, the sheer wildness of it all. Eliminate all distractions interfering with your ability to connect and understand the openness surrounding you.

Step 4: CONNECT

Find a place to sit on the ground, without a blanket. Extend your legs out in front of you and lie back, looking up at the vastness of the sky above. Don’t worry about bugs, leaves, or mud on your clothes or hair. Let go of these thoughts. As children, we have no fear in this regard. Return to this unjudging mindset while in nature.

Step 5: RECENTER

Find what it is that makes you happy and commit to making this routine in your week. Release to the point of finding your core self, your best self.

Need a dose of wellness?

Get issue one of Grown for Good Wellness Magazine here.