Forest Bathing for Health & Well-being

Forest Bathing

A couple of years ago I moved to the mountains in Southern California, and since then, I’ve had the great privilege of being able to walk out my front door, down the street, and escape into the woods onto any number of nearby trails. My home sits on a sweet little lot that’s full of grand ol’ trees. Some are likely a few hundred years old. From every window (even my bathroom) I can gaze outside onto trees. There’s something uniquely calming seeing the color green in every direction.

The Color Green

I decided to ask Google what the color green represents, and this is what I found:

  • It’s the color of nature, growth, life, and health
  • Green triggers thoughts of peace, harmony and calmness
  • It’s believed to create a balance between emotions and the logical mind
  • Green is linked to an emotional response of feeling safe and secure
  • It encourages a quest for knowledge and understanding

But my delight in seeing green outside isn’t so much about the color itself, as interesting as the list above is… it’s about these impressive living trees and their positive effect on human beings.

San Jacinto Wilderness

Grieving Loved Ones and Hugging Trees

As I continue to grieve my beautiful children, Christina and Daniel, I often feel the forest inhaling my sadness like they do the carbon dioxide that we breathe. Sometimes, I sit on my deck, quietly watching and listening to these grand beings, thanking them for their generosity and wisdom.

Have you ever hugged a tree? I can recommend it! I’ve got an old Black Oak tree in my yard that I will stand next to, place my hand upon its deeply furrowed bark, and ask any number of questions. Does the old Oak answer? Of course, he does.

When I step onto a trail, it might take several minutes before my senses realize I have shifted focus from doing to being. But wonderfully, every time, my thoughts slow down, and my focus is centered on my surroundings: the sensation of a breeze brushing my face, the sights and sounds of the melodious birds, the call of the raven and hawk above, the scurry of chipmunks, squirrels and lizards; the fragrance of the forest, years of decomposing plant matter is a sweet aroma to my soul.

One foot in front of the other… “Oh wow, who’s this gorgeous plant up ahead?” I’m like a little girl in a toy store, running from one flower to the next with grand curiosity, saying hello to all my plant friends.

Hiking Alone

While I enjoy hiking with friends, I equally enjoy hiking in solitude. Sometimes a conversation can distract from the sweetness of nature and her healing gifts. Alone, my worried thoughts slow down to a trickle, heart pumping, blood circulating through my body, strengthening the cardiovascular system, toxins being released through sweat glands. I am at peace.

Exercise versus Being in Nature

There are days when I hike that I want to get my heart pumping and quickly get into the high country. Once there, my gait slows down and I meander, taking in the beauty that surrounds me. Deep breaths, listening, watching.

On other days, I begin with a gentle easy pace… immediately absorbing the vast effects of the forest.

Metaphysical Benefits

Appreciating beauty, exploring nature, expanding intuition, listening to Spirit…  these are some metaphysical effects that are as important to health as physical exertion.

Sitting on the beach or playing in the park is excellent for health, too, but there’s something extra-special, even magical, about being in a forest. This has always been my experience. Before moving to the mountains, I would visit from time to time throughout the year, sometimes for a weekend or even just a day. I’m not kidding when I tell you I would tear-up as I drove up the mountain, the unique aroma and presence of the trees embraced me like a long-lost child. And often, I’d do the same when I left, tear-up. Since I was living in a suburban area at the time, the influence of the forest’s spirit affected me greatly. My heart wanted to stay forever in that wild place.

And now, I’m here, every day.

Watching the trees sway in the wind engages my senses, heightening them. My breath becomes slow and rhythmic. My busy mind slows down as I focus on the movement of the branches and feel the wind brush against my face. This effect can unfold in a matter of minutes. Just think what thirty minutes, or a couple of hours would do for you!!

This is what most people experience when they step off the concrete onto dirt and meander through the deep forest even for a short while.

“Wherever there are trees, we are healthier and happier, it isn’t about exercising—like hiking or jogging—it’s simply about being in nature.”

Qing Li, author of ‘Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness’.

City Life Requires Forest Bathing

With more of us living in major cities these days, it’s all the more important to find a forest to escape into. Perhaps your local park is heavily populated with trees – go there. Walk calmly, let your eyes gaze upon the shimmering leaves as they dance with the wind. And be sure to hug one of the beauties – trees have feelings, too. Place a blanket under a tree, lay there and, gaze up. Listen carefully to the stories it has to share.

“Humans are hardwired to connect with the natural world and being in nature has a profoundly positive effect on human health.”

I.O. Wilson, American Biologist

I’ve experienced this firsthand. How about you? Do you have any positive stories to share about your experiences among the trees? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


Resources:

www.colorpsychologymeaning.com/color-green

www.greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_protect_kids_from_nature_deficit_disorder

www.mindful.org/why-forest-bathing-is-good-for-your-health

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