There’s a new movement stirring in Australia, and it’s got a pretty cute nickname: forest bathing. It goes by a few other names too — biophilia and shinrin-yoku, for example — but the core philosophy is the same: that getting outdoors and surrounded by mother nature can work wonders for your physical and mental health.
This long-held wisdom may not seem revolutionary, but research has now surfaced that lends scientific support to what many of us already instinctively know: that time in nature is good for both our bodies and our minds.
And with up to 91% of our lives spent indoors, there has never been a better time to change up bad habits and enjoy the many health benefits of living free range.
But that doesn’t have to mean packing up, moving to the bush, and living off the grid. In fact, research shows that even short bursts of time outdoors help us to start reaping the rewards.
The Health Benefit: Better Concentration
A twenty minute ‘dose of nature’ may be enough to create a shift in your brain, and see improved concentration. You don’t even need to stray far from home; local parks do the trick too. Just trade concrete and glass for couch grass and gumtrees, and enjoy the renewed clarity that comes from it.
Why not try…
It could be as simple as taking your lunch break and going for a walk in a park near the office. Switch off, enjoy your surrounds, and wave goodbye to brain fog.
The Health Benefit: Better Mood
Some clever scientists had the idea to use mobile EEG recorder to measure people’s brain activity as they moved between urban environments and green spaces. The verdict? That people had lower frustration in green spaces.
Another study went further, and showed that people felt “comfortable, soothed, and refreshed” when viewing a forest landscape. Tests were performed that showed lower levels of stress hormones were released when people were taking in the forest views, and it was suggested that it may be part of the reason nature had this calming effect on people.
Why not try…
We all know that exercise is good for us, so why not take our thirty minutes of daily exercise out of the gym and into the wild? If you live near bushland, maybe go for a jog and enjoy the added mood-boosting benefits that come with all those post-exercise endorphins. Or if running’s not your style, you could practice meditation in nature to enjoy a heightened self of calm and relaxation.
The Health Benefit: Boosted Immunity
This one is seriously impressive. The scent of plants is usually down to a family of natural compounds called phytoncides that the plant releases into the air. These phytoncides have been shown to increase the number and function of immune cells in the body after only three days immersion in the wilderness. And the effects last for up to a week afterwards!
Why not try…
This is the best excuse for a camping trip I’ve heard of in a long time. Give your immune system a boost by taking a long weekend and heading to your favourite nature spot.
The Health Benefit: Lower Blood Pressure
If you’ve got a little more time on your hands, take seven days and a few friends for a holiday that will be as good for you as any health retreat. Both blood pressure and heart rate have been shown to improve with a little forest bathing.
Why not try…cabin/shared holiday (7+ days)
Get out there and go bushwalking, eating, laughing, and having a good time with loved ones, in the knowledge that your heart might thank you too.
Reece Carter is an Australian naturopath, part of the Lilydale Free Range Tribe and a self-confessed ‘herb nerd’. An advocate of ‘living the way our bodies were meant to be’, Reece is all about getting his hands dirty in the garden, hiking with close friends, or simply enjoying a whole foods feast in the sunshine. This free ranger believes we feel better when we’re outdoors.