Let’s face it, now that we’re four days into the new year, the resolutions you made with such shiny optimism are already starting to tarnish. We’re back at work, the kids are back at school, the usual routines you had before holiday madness set in have returned with a vengeance and you don’t know how in the world you thought fitting in daily gym dates and eating salads had even a snowball’s chance in hell at success. Any moment of stress-free existence you may have had during the break – fleeting though it was – is now as gone as the presents you returned, and you’re paying the price. Your blood pressure’s as high as your piles of unfinished work and stress levels are through the roof. Ain’t life grand.
Consider this. According to Prevention.com, 90% of Americans report feeling stressed over at least one thing during the holiday season. Ninety percent! So thinking that a having break from the daily grind will rejuvenate you is like thinking that drinking a cup of coffee will make up for years of sleep deprivation. So what to do? Should you just accept that your life is a hopeless, never-ending hamster wheel? That the only people living stress-free lives are monks? Hell no. How about actually making an honest-to-goodness conscious effort to de-stress? Setting aside time for the sole purpose of calming your anxieties and centering your soul? Sounds good, right? So do what the Japanese do: take a bath in the forest.
Shinrin Yoku is Japanese for forest bathing. To be clear, you’re not hauling a tub into the woods like people in a Cialis commercial. Instead, forest bathing is a health-enhancing technique of letting the sights, sounds, and smells of being in the forest wash over you as you wonder. Bathing, as it were, in the sensations of the woods. To be a proper forest bather is not simply to trek along a woodsy path and call it a day. Instead, it’s to immerse oneself in all that the forest offers. Listen to the birds. Smell the earthiness. Feel the rustling wind on your cheeks. Bathe in the forest experience and feel your stress levels plummet.
The folks at shinrin-yoku.org have put up a three-minute video on YouTube to give you an introduction to the concept. Look! I’ve found it for you:
Amos Clifford, one of the leading voice of forest therapy, states in an article in Women’s Health magazine that a single three-hour walk in the woods can calm your mind and body for a week. Sounds good, but what if you happen to live where there’s nary a forest in sight? Fear not. Immersion in any natural setting can work just as well, from mountains to deserts to beaches. Even a park would do, as long as you can get away from your every day environment and immerse yourself in the natural. Phones and other electronic devices are strictly verboten. You’ve got to be able to escape the confines of stressful daily life and notice the nature around you. Another good thing to know is that while a three-hour immersion is recommended, studies have shown that even a few minutes of being in a natural setting can help calm and soothe the savage – and stressed – beast in us all.
The forest bathing movement and “ecotherapy” is catching on. Doctors are writing “nature prescriptions” to address everything from anxiety and depression to high blood pressure and diabetes. Studies purport to show that nature walks reduce cortisol – the hormone released during times of stress – and leave participants feeling happy and relaxed in the great outdoors.
Why not give it a try? Writer Gemma Hartley of the Women’s Health magazine article states that her writing flowed better than it had in years after she’d gone on a forest bathing retreat. So relax and rejuvenate with a bath in the woods. Your mind and body will thank you.