So, I have to say the first time I heard the expression “Forest Bathing” I laughed, maybe not out loud, but, I know i rolled my eyes. I immediately thought, what??? I felt someone hijacked the simple act of a hike in the woods, and they’ve given it a new age name. I actually felt a annoyed and offended. But I was so curious to know what they actually meant by Forest Bathing, I started looking into it.
One of the reasons I felt offended and put off by this new age Forest Bathing, is that for us Finns, nature has been a huge part of our culture. After all, I come from a country known as, “a land of a thousand lakes”.
I have to admit, I’m a bit of an embarrassment to my heritage, and, my family would agree wholeheartedly. The simple act of going for a walk, not even a hike, but a walk in the woods seems like an arduous task. If I tell you that I have the most beautiful forests just up the street from me (up the street means up the hill) and down our street is a park with trails, and a beautiful river, you would understand, that I’m not the poster child for Finland. But, I’m not going to dwell on the negative, because, that’s not what my fifties is all about! I’m going to keep learning, evolving, and doing the best I can… now.
Plants and trees emit a substance called phytoncide. This substance helps trees and plants protect themselves against harmful insects and germs. It is thought that as we walk through the woods, we inhale this substance, and in turn the phytoncide enters our body and helps our cells fight off disease. What a wonderful thing! When I read this I just wanted to run to the woods and hang out for hours! JK. But, it has given me great incentive to spend more time in the forest. When I do go for a walk in the woods, it’s usually a fast paced hike with my sister, I still come out of there feeling so good and relaxed. Why am I not doing it more often? Well that’s about to change!
Benefits of Forest Bathing
Boost immune system
Reduce blood pressure
Increased ability to focus
increased energy levels
Increase in happiness
So, once I started reading about Forest Bathing in articles by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, I decided it’s not hokey at all, and I appreciate the thought and science behind this act, that brings people to a healthy place, to calm their spirits and help their bodies heal. What’s interesting is that when you do this, it should be done without hurry, and without a specific destination. You should slowly walk in the woods, touch the trees, relax and breathe deeply. It’s not an exercise in its true form, but, more of a restorative, meditative walk. The great thing about this is that if you’re able to walk, you can do this, and even though your pulse rate isn’t being revved up, you are still benefiting greatly.
I’m making a vow to myself, to not let all this nature I’m so fortunate to have around me, not be part of my life. What do you think of Forest Bathing? Have you heard of this term before? I hope you are as fortunate as I am, to be able to be in a forest in a matter of minutes, if you choose to. -Anneli