Imagine if your doctor prescribed a specific amount of time in nature when you were feeling depressed? Doctors do this in Japan where it's a cornerstone of health care, and healing referred to as Shinrin Yoku. This simple practice translates as "Forest Bathing," and is now catching the attention of Americans everywhere because of the immense health benefits it provides.
Did you know the average American spends 10 hours in front of a screen?
At Skyterra Wellness, we understand the chaotic pace of our modern world makes us ultra-plugged in and disconnected from our natural environment, each other, and ourselves. We encourage you to get outside because this is where your wandering and overstimulated mind discovers peace and the deep connection you've been longing for.
Let the forest be with you. The benefits of spending time in nature exemplify how it's not just relaxing, but also deeply healing. Here are five reasons why walking quietly in the woods can boost your health and happiness.
Increase Your Good Feelings
Allowing yourself to be present to the moment is practicing mindfulness. This important practice is heavily integrated into Forest Bathing as it increases activity in the left part of the brain; the home of resilience and positive emotions. Forest Bathing is particularly useful after a long, dark winter when most of us feel depressed after several months indoors. Getting out into the warm sun and letting it kiss your skin will give you that Vitamin D boost and create more positive vibes in your mind, body, and soul.
Our stress response puts us in fight or flight mode, which releases cortisol through the body. Too much of this hormone makes our bodies store fat and leads to exhaustion. By using your senses and gazing into the green forest scenery, you'll hear the babbling brook and breathe in the cold air filled with a light scent of pine. You can slow down your fight or flight response in the brain and turn on the Relaxation Response when tuning into the sweet birdsong or feeling the earth crunching softly beneath your feet. This sensory practice grounds the body in the natural environment, strengthening the mind-body connection, and simultaneously reducing the cortisol in the body by 14% after just 20 minutes in the forest. The alarm bell in the brain that informs us of threats and tells us "You're not okay.." doesn't go off so loudly, so you become less reactive and calmer.
Stanford conducted a study a few years back and learned that people who spent 90 minutes walking in nature had significantly fewer symptoms of depression compared to those who spent time in urban environments. Often depression consists of ruminating and obsessive thinking, fatigued body, and lack of self-efficacy, energy, and self-esteem. These symptoms get reduced when in nature, as the calming effects of the outside world regulate our mood because our attention goes towards beauty and the elements. You can feel yourself breathing and exerting energy as you move your body across a rugged landscape. The everyday worries begin to fall away as you distance yourself from traffic, noise, and the demands of life by immersing in the splendor of nature.
Chances are, if you’re outside, you are at least walking. And the effects of moving the body like this has a lasting positive impact both physically and emotionally. Exercise boosts endorphins which elicit sensations of pleasure. Exercising outdoors can improve self-esteem, reduce anger, depression, and tension. Getting the blood flowing through cardiovascular exercise increases your heart health, boosts your metabolic power, and even leads to improved sleep.
Soothes the Soul
Think of a place that makes you euphoric. Typically, a natural setting appears. There's something innate about the power of nature and how it restores our spirits. Perhaps we reconnect with a part of our child-like wonder that's still alive inside. Or the sounds of moving water that resonate within. It's in these places that we can quickly feel gratitude, practice mindfulness, and feel the natural flow of serenity.
If you have felt depressed or want to improve your emotional well-being, begin getting outside. Spending time in nature can't replace prescribed medication, but it certainly can be a helpful complement to it. Find a place where you can get quiet and absorb nature with all your senses. Breathe the fresh air, listen to the birds, feel the sun on your face and notice how the air caresses your skin. Take your well-deserved break and let yourself get quiet in the reflective atmosphere of nature. Get back to nature, back to your inner core, back to yourself.