I’ll admit it. When I first heard the term “forest bathing,” I was more than a little skeptical. I had no clue what it actually was. But it sure sounded far too hippy dippy for my tastes.
But when I learned it was a standard practice in Chinese medicine, I quickly changed my tune. And after some intensive research, I’m so impressed with what I uncovered I decided I have to share it with you.
The first thing I learned is that forest bathing doesn’t have a thing to do with actually taking a bath in a forest. Which, I’ll be honest, was a huge relief. Because I can assure you, you’re not going to find me hanging out in my birthday suit at the local park anytime soon.
The second thing I uncovered was forest bathing is based on solid science. And, in fact, researchers say it’s terrific for your health.
It turns out forest bathing is simply spending more time in green spaces such as forests and large nature-filled parks.
Hardcore forest bathers prefer to find a spot where they can sit or lie down on the ground among the trees and vegetation. But experts say finding an isolated bench or even just strolling through the green-lined paths can give us the same health benefits.
5 proven benefits of forest bathing
Following are five proven benefits of forest bathing, or spending more time in contact with nature.
1. Boost short-term memory:
Researchers at the University of Michigan gave a group of volunteers a short-term memory test. Half of them then took a walk in the woods. The other half took a stroll through city streets instead.
When they returned they all took another short-term memory test. The volunteers who walked the city streets had no changes in their short-term memory. But the folks who spent their walk forest bathing, surrounded by nature, improved their scores by nearly 20 percent.
2. Improve healing:
Two separate Harvard University studies have linked exposure to nature with improved healing after injuries and surgeries.
The first study found folks needed significantly fewer pain pills after spinal surgeries when they were able to recover in natural light. The second study found that simply looking at nature through a window helped patients recover faster
3. Reduce inflammation:
Chronic inflammation is associated with just about every chronic disease we can suffer from, from heart disease to diabetes. And forest bathing is a proven inflammation fighter.
In a study published in the journal Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, two groups were, sent out, once again, to walk either in the woods or in the city. The folks who walked in the woods ended up with significantly lower inflammation than the group which had done the city walking.
And in another Chinese study, researchers treated a group of seniors to a camping trip in the forest. When they returned from their forest bathing trip they had significantly less inflammation and lower blood pressure.
4. Balance blood sugar:
In a huge study of more than a quarter million Australians, researchers found that forest bathers—folks who spent more time in nature—were far less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their nature shunning peers.
People who spend more time outdoors tend to be more physically active, which can help keep blood sugars in check. And since stress hormones can directly affect your glucose levels, a proven stress reducer such as forest bathing could help reduce your diabetes risk.
5. Live longer:
Forest bathing may even be able to help extend our lives. Experts say folks who spend more time in nature are healthier and live longer.
A meta-analysis conducted at the University of East Anglia in England crunched the data from studies covering 290 million people. They found that forest bathing had so many health benefits that making it a regular habit could actually extend life.
So what are you waiting for? Put on your forest bathing outfit… a comfortable pair of walking shoes and some loose fitting clothing… and get out there.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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