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Why You Should Be Forest Bathing (And We Don't Mean Shampoo)

Americans spend 93 percent of their time indoors, and scientists believe it’s time to follow the lead of the Japanese and get outside. In Japan, forests are purposely managed to help people enjoy nature and relax. Called “shinrin-yoku” (translation: “immersing in the forest atmosphere”) doing so can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure in just 15 minutes, CNN Health reports. Hence, a forest “bathing” club has been formed in San Francisco, where people unplug from electronics and simply experience a forest with all their senses, including tasting flowers and touching the bark of the trees.

There is no question that spending time outdoors can significantly lift your mood, and that outdoors activities such as gardening and nature hikes can be good therapy. Called “ecotherapy” in America, using nature as a means to better health has proven to not only lower depression levels, but to increase self-esteem and reduce blood pressure, thus leading to an overall feeling of good health.

In fact, ecotherapy works so well that studies show that just getting your hands in the soil for as little as 20 minutes while you garden is all the antidepressant some people need. Time and again, cultivating the health benefits of being in nature has shown to be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Even a quick “nature retreat” can provide physical and mental well-being. The only problem is making time to get outside.

If possible, seek to spend time in nature daily. Start by pushing away from the computer and turning off your phone and doing something as simple as walking down your tree-lined street, tending to your backyard garden or eating lunch outdoors in a city park.

When time allows, try to immerse yourself even more fully in nature by going for a hike in a nature preserve, canoeing down a river or even camping outdoors for a weekend. You can also use the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to relieve the stresses of urbanized living. This may be especially useful for times when you're "trapped" in the city, but, once you learn it, you can even do EFT outdoors in nature for even greater healing effects.
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