Hey there, I’m Jessica Collins fromForest Bathing Central, and I’m guest posting here for Heidi today about two topics I’m intimately familiar with: anxiety and forest bathing.
* Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or therapist, and this information isn’t meant to diagnose, treat, or substitute for medical advice. It’s simply based on information I’ve gathered and personal experience in the hopes that it might help someone else too.
My overwhelming love of nature and my continual search for anxiety therapies led me straight to forest bathing. They just seem like the perfect perfect combination, right?
And they are.
Studies have long shown the therapeutic benefits of nature for mental health, which I’ll share with you. Mindfulness and meditation are commonly incorporated into anxiety treatment too.
Forest bathing is the perfect marriage of nature therapy and mindfulness for anxiety.
So, let’s look at how forest bathing can help you if you have anxiety, based on what both science and personal experience have to say.
If you’re familiar with forest bathing, you know the practice of forest bathing involves deep concentration on the forest atmosphere using all the senses. At least two major known therapeutic elements come into play when you forest bathe: mindfulness and nature exposure.
First, the element of mindfulness is built into forest bathing. Mindfulness is about tuning into only the present moment as you take the environment in with each sense.
By paying close attention to what’s going on around you, you stop the vicious cycle of negative and ruminative thought patterns that perpetuate anxiety. There’s not much room left over for brooding when you’re concentrating on the details surrounding you.
Key findings from research: A review of 39 studies and 1,140 participants found that “mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems.”
Therapists often incorporate mindfulness practice into their treatment protocol for anxiety. Since forest bathing involves the benefits of mindfulness, it also provides relief from stress and worry.
Second, exposure to nature, greenery, and forests, specifically, enhances mood and lowers markers of stress. It relaxes the vicious rumination circle, has a pronounced relaxing effect, and increases a bunch of positive emotions.
Key findings from the research: Participants who went forest bathing in 24 forests across Japan enjoyed lowered cortisol levels, lowered blood pressure, slower heart rates, and lower sympathetic nervous system activity–all physiological signs of anxiety!
The entire field of ecotherapy is built around the therapeutic benefits of being in nature. Forest bathing is a form of ecotherapy that provides emotional and mental health benefits.
Forest bathing is the perfect therapeutic culmination of nature exposure and mindfulness.
Related reading: Check outthis postfor all the studies about the benefits of forest bathing.
The personal experience
I’ve had my own lifelong relationship with anxiety. I’d describe it as a long-lost cousin that’s related to me and co-exists in the world with me, but doesn’t interact with me very often and I forget he’s there most of the time.
Part of the reason it’s not prevalent most of the time is because I take daily actions to keep it suppressed and manageable. One of those things? Ah, you guessed it. Forest bathing.
Now, first off, let me just say, forest bathing isn’t a “cure” for anxiety. Anxiety requires daily ongoing maintenance and forest bathing is a tool that can be incorporated into the repertoire.
I’m no doctor or therapist. I’m just a girl who has a distant cousin named Anxiety that pops in at the front door unexpectedly from time to time.
I can spout out all the different studies and measurable effects of forest bathing like above, but it doesn’t fully explain the feelings shinrin-yoku invokes, does it?
I don’t really know how all the science works, I can just say I can feel it, how forest bathing affects me. It relaxes, yes, but not just the muscles. It relaxes the mind, body, and thought patterns. It captures my attention and releases me in a way that TV, reading, and other engrossing indoor activities can’t.
I can tell you that forest bathing makes me “feel” different. I can be tied in knots at home or in the grocery store. The moment I step into the woods, some other mechanism takes over and smothers the anxiety.
I see the same in my kids. Even when they were tiny newborns, they could be crying all day, and the moment we stepped outside with them, they were fine. It’s like it’s buried in our DNA.
I can tell you that a routine forest bathing practice is far more powerful than simply meditation or mindfulness alone. The addition of nature exposure takes the benefits of meditation and mindfulness up a notch, or six.
I can tell you, I usually return home from a forest bathing experience changed. Not as in, “this experience changed the way I live my life” (although that happens on some level too). I mean, as in, my disposition changes, my feelings about my troubles changes, my sense of livelihood changes.
As though an entirely new sense of tranquility and okay-ness has washed over me.
I don’t always have the words for it.
And that’s probably the best place to leave you. With your own thoughts. With your own considerations, where the words end…
I hope this article has given you a new appreciation for forest bathing as an anti-anxiety tool. If you have anxiety, you too know that anxiety management is an ongoing process and requires you to be kind to yourself daily.
In honor of the importance of self-care, I’d like to do a giveaway to help you find the same tranquility I have found in forest bathing.
I’m so excited to be giving away one copy of my Forest Bathing Immersion Program to one of Heidi’s readers. The program teaches you why, how, and where to forest bathe
Then, come back here and leave a comment letting us know how you entered.
We’ll choose a winner on Tuesday 20th March 2018, after GMT 20:00.
Bio: Jessica Collins is the founder of Forest Bathing Central, where you can learn all about the practice of forest bathing. She lives in rural Wisconsin, America, with her husband and two children where they make a point of getting out into nature every day. Connect with her on Youtube, Instagram, and her website.