Mara here. I find that when life gets to be too much, I crave nature much like I crave a nap, sweets or comfort food. I’t exciting to learn the scientific reasons for that! Ambassador Jacquelyn writes abouts forest bathing. Have you heard of it?

Do you ever escape to nature to find some me time or family time, maybe to destress or just to get away from the rush of day to day life?  Do you noticed that you feel better after spending time in nature?  Did you know there is a term for this?  It is called Forest Bathing.  It seems that society is slowly learning of all the benefits from hiking and being in nature.  I have been curious about Forest Bathing and have started looking into it more.

Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing.” was originated in Japan, but research has also been done in South Korea.  I recently read the book, The Nature Fix by Florence Williams where I have learned more about Forest Bathing. The reason these countries started this movement was because there was a high suicide rate due to demanding work environments and living in large populated areas of these countries where there was not a lot of access to nature.

While reading the book I learned that the art of Forest Bathing was developed in various nature areas of Japan and South Korea with the goal to bring people away from their hectic lives and connect with nature.  Forest Bathing Centers were developed to study the effects that being in the woods had on people.  The staff would take down information regarding the visitors background and medical information.  The visitors would go out on the trails and spend some time in nature.  When they returned they were assessed on how felt or any changes in vitals.  Per the Shinrin-yoku website: the scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:

• Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells.
• Reduced blood pressure
• Reduced stress
• Improved mood
• Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
• Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
• Increased energy level
• Improved sleep

Just as impressive are the results that we are experiencing as we make this part of our regular practice:

• Deeper and clearer intuition
• Increased flow of energy
• Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
• Increased flow of eros/life force
• Deepening of friendships
• Overall increase in sense of happiness

I recently had the opportunity to partake in a Forest Bathing experience.  The Harris Center located in Hancock, New Hampshire is a conservation education center offering an array of hiking trails and outdoor events.  They held an event titled, “Forest Bathing by Moonlight.”  It was led by two women who lead us through the process of forest bathing and some light yoga.  There was a brief introduction and background on Forest Bathing.

We were then guided out into the cold night.  With the temperatures only being in the teens I was worried if I was going to be warm enough as we were told we would be walking very slow. We walked quietly along a trail into a field.  There was no talking during the walk, only time to be one with nature.  We were told to take in the scenery around us, observing what we heard, saw and felt. I noticed how the outline of the trees popped even though it was dark.  I could see the various shades of gray that the night time provided, things I usually notice when I am hiking.

We stopped a couple times to do some yoga stretches or breathing.  This is not an exercise to get your heart rate up, but to slow your body and mind, which is what I needed. Surprisingly I felt warm during the whole experience. The entire walk was no more than a half mile and spending about 30 minutes outside.  I was amazed at how different I felt after this. I felt calmer, less tense, less rushed and overall relaxed. Also some stressors I have been having seem to not seem as important anymore.

I have spent much of my life in the outdoors, but it is always with a purpose to get to a destination or to complete a task.  Forest bathing is different.  You do not need a large space, just a quiet area among the trees, like your backyard a local park or local hiking trail.  It is helpful if the area is free of noise pollution like cars or businesses.  Think of being out in the woods without purpose other than to find yourself connecting with nature.  Move slowly and quietly through nature listing to yourself and the woods around you. Take in everything that nature has to offer you.  See how you feel after just spending a few minutes outside within nature.

 

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Hey, y’all! Ambassador Michelle, @dignthegarden here with you from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Today’s hike was to the magical land of Porters Creek Trail in Greenbrier. This is a wonderland of wildflowers, from the hillsides of White Trillium to the fields of White Fringed Phacelia. Enjoy! #hikelikeawoman #hikerchat #hlawamBADASSador #instagramtennessee #outdoorwomen #forceofnature #optoutside #sharetheadventure #wildwomenadventurers #womenwhohike #easttennessee #865life #tristaradventures #365challenge #10kwomen #smokymountains #friendsofthesmokies #yourlead #whereiwander #getoutside #mtnchicks #sheexplores #SHEnanigans #stompingdirt #tennesseegirl #wildflowers

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Now when I am feeling overwhelmed I am going to take a few minutes just to sit outside among the trees and away from the day to day stressors.  I can see why this has had enormous health benefits for people.  I highly recommend that everyone either takes a class or reads a book about it, then does a practice on their own.

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