A silent forest, where everything seems motionless but in reality beats with life. The shoes creak on the path as you make your way through ferns and mosses, the air is fresh and clean, slightly scented with aromas of resin. The forest is a unique experience to be immersed in nature, to detach from stress and to bring benefit to body and mind, so much that even science has been interested in its properties for health and a term has been coined to indicate the immersion in a woods as a regenerating action for body and mind, the forest bathing. Let's try to understand better!
Forest bathing, what is that?
In Japan it is called shinrin yoku, the scientists call it forest bathing. It is an excursion into the woods, even of short duration, in which you walk or, even better, sit for a few minutes under a tree, to relax or meditate. There is no specific purpose, such as walking for miles to keep fit or looking for mushrooms, but simply to stop for a moment and breathe in the precious essential oils released by the trees.
Forest bathing, properties
Forest bathing is a real aromatherapy available to everyone since the trees release substances called phytoncides, which are essential oils released by the wood such as alpha pinene and limonene with an antimicrobial action useful for plants to combat insects (Quing Li, Environ Health Prev Med., 2010). But the action of immersing in nature, the forest bathing, has also been shown to tone the body, to improve mood, to reduce anxiety, depression and anger and to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels (Quing Li, Environ Health Prev Med ., 2010 - Furuyashiki et al, Environ Health Prev Med., 2019). Therefore, the decreased production of stress hormones and the action of the phytoncides absorbed during walking have been shown to act in synergy by stimulating the action of the immune system by increasing the activity of natural killer cells, the cells responsible for recognizing and fight bacterial and viral infections and tumor aggressions (Quing Li, Environ Health Prev Med., 2010 - Lodoen et al, Curr Opin Immunol., 2006). Not only that, being in the forest also allowed to reduce the levels of oxidative stress, which in the long term can cause DNA damage, and inflammation, and today we know that chronic inflammation is the cause of several diseases ranging from depression, to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer (Gen Xiang Mao et al, Biomed Environ Sci, 2012). Therefore, a relaxed walk in the woods or a meditation session or simply a moment in which you sit among the trees have beneficial effects on both the body and the mind.
And if the forest is far away?
No problem, we can always restore ourselves with a walk in a park, among the trees. In fact, being in a natural environment regenerates us, increases attention and concentration and reduces stress (Pasanen et al, Front Psychol, 2018). Taking advantage of the lunch break and, after having lunch, having a special time into nature can only be beneficial, with a restorative but also relaxing action with even effects on night sleep! In fact, it has been observed that a walk in nature increases, during sleep, the action of the parasympathetic system, the part of the autonomic nervous system that predisposes the body to rest (Gladwell et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2016).