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The Health Benefits of Forest Bathing


By    |   Monday, 26 April 2021 11:56 AM

The Japanese have taken the healing power of nature seriously for many years. They call the practice of immersing oneself in nature "Shinrin-yoku" which translates to "taking in the forest atmosphere." The more common term used by many healthcare practitioners today is "forest bathing."

During the height of the pandemic, young mothers took their children to visit the Swinton Community Growing Project, a forest nestled in the heart of an urban sprawl in downtown Delray Beach, Florida.

"It was incredible to see how they calmed down once they were ensconced in our forest, surrounded by the greenery and smell of the medicinal plants," says Michiko Kurisu, co-founder of the garden project. "Many moms have continued to bring their children so that they can experience the benefits of our natural sanctuary."

Top scientists have studied these benefits and found that forest bathing not only soothes the mind but improves overall health.

"Researchers have established a rich body of scientific literature about the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest," say Drs. David and Austin Perlmutter in their latest book, Brain Wash. David Perlmutter is a board-certified neurologist and his son, Austin, is board-certified in internal medicine.

The experts say that forest bathing calms the mind by evoking the relaxation response in the parasympathetic nervous system while dampening the stress-promoting sympathetic nervous system. Part of the response is caused by the soothing smells of the forest according to research that links the aromas of cedarwood oil and other plant extracts to helping the body and brain slow down, as well as boosting the immune system, say the doctors.

"Forest bathing research is, as it were, blossoming," the Perlmutters write. "More of the health-boosting effects of this practice are being discovered each year."

Some of the scientifically studied benefits include:

  • Improved immune function by boosting the count and activity of the body’s natural killer cells.
  • Reduced blood pressure.
  • Heightened coping abilities to deal with stress and less overall stress in general.
  • Improved mood.
  • Increased mindfulness
  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD.
  • Increased energy and improved sleep patterns.

The Perlmutters cite a particularly fascinating study done with people suffering from depression. The researchers divided the study participants into two groups, both of which received professional cognitive behavior therapy or CBT.

"In the study, one group received CBT in a hospital setting while the other group was given the same treatment in a forest," say the Perlmutters. "The study found that the forest group experienced a 61% decrease in depression symptoms as measured by established depression scales, whereas the hospital group experienced only a 21% decrease."

The experts say that in our challenging world that threatens to keep us from becoming the compassionate, caring people we were meant to be, it is heartening to know that the antidote is simply spending more time in nature.

"Tomorrow, see if you can wake up to natural sunlight. Open your windows if weather permits," advise the Perlmutters. "Buy plant for your office. Try an essential oil, and plan to be in nature for at least 30 minutes a week — minimum! The ‘green pill’ should be a standard prescription for all of us."

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The Japanese have taken the healing power of nature seriously for many years. They call the practice of immersing oneself in nature "Shinrin-yoku" which translates to "taking in the forest atmosphere." The more common term used by...
forest bathing, health benefits
Monday, 26 April 2021 11:56 AM
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