Forest Bathing for everyone

Forest Bathing for everyone

Scented roses ready for offering at morning worship service. Image courtesy
Image courtesy

World over, people have developed different customs and habits to be in touch with nature. From ancient times, people have realized the benefits of being associated with the environment and developed some traditions to inculcate doses of nature in their daily life.

As a child, my most memorable and impressionable moments are the times I spent with my grandmother early in the morning. My grandma had a large family to tend to. She woke up at dawn and started the day by visiting the back yard. Here, she checked on the #cows and calves. If they called out to her, she sometimes scratched them between the eyes and rubbed their stomach. I also recall she sometimes gave them water, that was long before uncle comes to milk them.

Then, she would pick flowers from the many plants in the back yard. One never knew which plant would have abundant flowers that day. It was exciting to fill the basket with white, yellow, red, pink and blue flowers until the gleaming metal basket filled up. She stopped picking flowers when her basket was full. Grandpa would offer the flowers for worship later in the morning.

Another place she liked to sit was in the shade of the coconut tree brushing the long strands of my aunts’ and braiding them firmly and rapidly. She sat in the same place to wash the rice for grinding later in the afternoon. Sometimes she laid out freshly washed dishes in the sun before stacking them in the kitchen. Even today, when I encounter the shade of a coconut tree, I recall the affinity my grandma had for this tree. The shade became a sacred space that connected us, women from different generations, expectations, and experiences. I carry her genius, to celebrate of life and find something from nature to connect and honor, with me even today.

Lying on the ground, unmindful of the #ants, and gazing at the waving fronds that seemed to reach the skies was timeless and mesmerizing. When I placed my legs on the trunk, I felt the tree sway in the breeze. The #squirrels that nibbled on the flowers, the #crows, the mynas, the #woodpecker, the hawk… everything was visible from a different perspective. It helped me calm down, sort through my experiences and develop some trust in nature and natural processes. Life seemed to become friendly when I knew that I was somehow connected to all these things.

Recent studies show a strong connection between #health and #nature. In Japan, it is popular to spend time immersing oneself in the forests, usually walking or meditating. This practice is called as Shinrin-Yoku or forest bathing. The ancient tradition is now adopted as a popular method of preventive healthcare that is required for adjusting to the side-effects of fast-paced modern lifestyle.

Dr. Miyazaki from Chiba University, #Japan, invited 280 people to participate in an experimental study for understanding the usefulness of the practice. The #experiment was simple enough. On the first day, a group of 12 participants were sent to walk/ view for 40 minutes in the forest center another group was sent to walk/view the city center. The following day, participants traded locations. Those who went to the city center the previous day went to the forest center, and the participants who had already completed the forest walk visited the city center.

Participants also gave samples of saliva, their blood pressure, pulse rate and #heart rate variability before and after the walk. These tests indicate the #stress-levels of the participants. The results of the study confirmed the many-fold #benefits of walking in #nature. In the forest environments, the participants experienced lower concentrations of cortisol, lower blood pressure and pulse rate, and lower sympathetic nerve activity. There was also greater parasympathetic nerve activity suggesting that Shinrin-yoku can aid in effectively relaxing the human body. In addition, the psychological effects of forest areas were correlated with the various physical environmental factors of forest showing a supportive relationship between walking in the forests and human health.

If you are someone who does not have a backyard or lives in an apartment complex, there are few things you can do get the benefits of forest bathing experience. You could go for a walk in a park or a place with trees every day. You could view large posters of forests or #nature at home and work. Another favorite strategy I use is to play #bird calls on my computer, especially on busy days when I have little time to go for a walk. Having plants or fresh flowers at home or work also reduces #stress. The best way to get the best out of nature is to take a walk and enjoy it. After all, that is free!
Enjoy the sounds of birds as you work through the day and reduce the stress

How do you plan to enjoy nature? Post your thoughts and comments below.