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  • Writer's pictureLisa Magnuson

Forest Bathing 101

If you haven't heard this term yet, you will soon. Forest bathing stems from the Japanese practice called "shinrin-yoku", which roughly translates to "taking in the medicine or the atmosphere of the forest." Traditionally, one would wander through the forest and concentrate on breathing and meditative exercises. It is believed to have multiple health enhancing qualities. Today we will delve into forest bathing and see what it offers us and decide if it is a practice we should consider adopting into our wellness repertoire. Let's start by taking a look at an umbrella study that reviewed 16 individual studies, all of which were designed to determine if forest bathing affects multiple health factors, like overall well-being, psychological stress, immune function, mental illness and hypertension. In this comprehensive review, the results clearly found a positive correlation between forest bathing increasing overall well-being, and promising effects on anxiety reduction, mood-improvement, stress relief and relaxation. It was also suggested that higher quality designed studies with standardized measures were needed to decide if forest bathing lends any positive effects to more therapeutic intervention (psychiatric or metabolic disorders). In a nutshell, yes, forest bathing can have a positive mood-boosting effect and should be studied further for additional possible health benefits. Ok, I'm in. Sooo, how do I "bathe" in the forest then? The trick to forest bathing is to take it slow and really experience your environment. This will be a different experience than taking a rigorous hike for 4 hours. Instead, it should feel relaxed and you can work on breathing exercises and cueing into your own sensations. In fact, you don't even have to walk very much, you can just sit and meditate in the forest and get the same results. In other words, the gentle movement part is always a plus, but if you want to rest and just take in the forest experience without moving through it, feel free! Use all your senses as you meander through the woods; smell the fresh air, listen to the wind in the trees or water running down the stream, observe the variety of nature, and touch the soft petals of the flora. However, don't be tempted to turn your forest excursion into an IG post or FB reel. Leave your phone in your pocket! Part of the beauty (and the positive psychological effects) of forest bathing come from what you AREN'T doing just as much as from what you ARE doing. The studies revealed that in as little as 10-30 minutes you can reap the health enhancing benefits of forest bathing. Living in the PNW we have a plethora of forested areas around us, and now that the weather is improving we should get outside in nature and see if we can find some zen from bathing in the forest wilderness.

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