How to Take a Forest Bath

Dec 16, 2020

Hey there, Dancer. Well, we are T-minus one week to Christmas and it got me thinking about the stress that often times goes along with the magic of this season. While we each have our own triggers for stressing out when we should be chilling in our our Christmas jammies, coco mug in hand, there is a simple solution for us all waiting outside…

Have you heard of Forest Bathing? It’s a real thing – an actual field of medical study – in Japan and China. “Forest bathing is a traditional practice characterized by visiting a forest and breathing its air.” The idea is simple: get outside in nature, breathe in fresh air and listen to the sounds around you. The outcome is profound. According to one study where the effects of forest bathing on levels of cortisol (often called “the stress hormone”), “cortisol levels were significantly lower after intervention in forest groups if compared with control/comparison groups.” Research is still ongoing to support this study because of the limited available data, but it also notes that even “anticipated placebo effects can play an important role” in reducing stress.

Dancer, did you hear that?

By simply sitting outside and breathing fresh air, we can lower our stress hormone levels.

Let me back up a minute… While cortisol is a necessary hormone in the body (it helps keeps inflammation down, regulates your blood pressure and more), too much of it over an extended period of time can “derail your body’s most important functions. It can also lead to a number of health problems,” according to WebMD. Elevated levels of cortisol over an extended period of time (like, let’s say, the Christmas season and/or dealing with effects of a pandemic) can contribute to anxiety and depression, headaches, weight gain, and problems with concentration, sleeping and digestion.

No, thank you. I’ll take the forest instead.

“But, Baby it’s cold outside,” you say? For the payoff of lower stress levels, better sleep and improved digestion, would you don your scarf and mittens? I know I would!!

Here are a few practical tips to get the most out of your de-stressing, forest baths:

✧ Find some trees that form a canopy for your forest bath. While being outside alone is good for the mind and body, forest bathing specifically involves a forest of trees. So go find a park, a friendly neighbor’s yard, or, better yet, a nature preserve.

✧ Find a spot to sit. This is not the time to jog or otherwise work on your fitness goals. Just SIT, breathe, and notice.

✧ Mentioned earlier, but especially in the winter months, prepare for your weather! I doubt whole-body shivering for 10 minutes is going to lower your stress level, no matter how many trees surround you!

✧ Keep it simple. No need to practice mediation or do anything “fancy” with your mind. (Although, meditating in a forest sounds heavenly!) Just look at the nature around you. Notice the leaves, or lack thereof. Notice the bark patterns on the tree trunks. Notice the wind. Notice the stillness. Notice the sounds of birds. Notice your own breath and feel the rhythm of the rise and fall of your chest.

Dancer, I hope you take some time to nourish your soul and heal your body and mind this busy holiday-with-a-pandemic season. I wish you happy Forest Bathing and the Happiest of Holidays and Merriest of Everythings.



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