Sitting by the ocean or a river, and walking in nature has a calming and nurturing effect on body and mind. Everybody has felt the positive impact of being out in nature: we feel the calming effect of sitting in a meadow or by the ocean. We feel energized by climbing a mountain or swimming in a lake.
It doesn’t take rocket science to know how good it is for us to get in touch with nature. But this is what is happening in Japan where a “new” form of therapy is on the rise: Shinrin-Yoku, which means forest bathing.
Scientists have discovered the therapeutic effects of walking in the woods. Before and after they embark on their stroll, they measure the blood pressure and cortisol levels in the blood of their test subjects, which indicate how stressed they are.
After half an hour of slow walking, there is a clear decrease in the measurable signs of stress. Even the body’s natural killer cells, which fight disease in us, are positively impacted. In Japan, forest bathing is becoming a part of preventive medicine, since so many of our modern day illnesses are stress based. In the US, too, the trend is beginning to take hold.
The trick is to walk in the woods slowly. Engage all your senses. Take in the cool air, smell the scents of the forest. Pay attention to the colors and sounds.
This way a walk becomes a form of meditation. We become mindful of our environment. The slower pace makes us more perceptive of subtle details. The over stimulation of the city environment is lacking and everything slows down.
This is when deep relaxation and a true connection to nature sets in.
This post first appeared on PsychCentral
Gerti Schoen is a writer and psychotherapist. In her spare time she enjoys learning, being in nature and around animals.