It is common knowledge that a leisurely stroll through a pristine natural landscape relaxes the spirit and calms the nerves. Unfortunately, our modern world does not allow for as much opportunity to engage with nature in its purest forms as the past may have allowed. Meet: the forest bath.
It has long been known in Japan and Korea that an ambling walk through a peaceful forest soothes the soul. The Japanese invented a word for this activity: Shinrin-yoku; “forest bathing.” An apt name, no? The Japanese government has utilized these “forest baths” as a preventive health measure. Through a combination of aromatherapy, fresh air, exercise, and beautiful vegetation and flora, the Japanese have succeeded in creating one of the most pleasant and relaxing anxiolytic therapies in the modern world.
Luckily, you do not have to travel to Japan to take a forest bath. National parks retain much of the natural beauty of the region in which they reside and offer many opportunities to take a forest bath. If you do not have a national park with a sufficient forest near by, even a city park would do the trick.
You may be skeptical that a walk through the woods actually provides anxiety relief. Scientists were, too, so they studied the psychological and physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku. Here is what research scientists had to say:
The forest bathing trip also significantly increased the numbers of NK, perforin, granulysin, and granzymes A/B-expressing cells. Taken together, these findings indicate that a forest bathing trip can increase NK activity, and that this effect at least partially mediated by increasing the number of NK cells and by the induction of intracellular anti-cancer proteins. (Source)
The results of studies performed on the physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku show that forest environments could lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, increase parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity compared with city settings. The results of the physiological measurements suggest that Shinrin-yoku can aid in effectively relaxing the human body, and the psychological effects of forest areas have been correlated with the various physical environmental factors of forest. The studies of Shinrin-yoku provide valuable insights into the relationship between forests and human health. (Source)
There you have it. A short, carefree stroll through the forest will improve your health in many different ways. Why not go take a forest bath today?