The Benefits Of Forest Bathing In The UK
Spending time in nature is undisputedly great for your physical and mental health, especially in today’s climate where many of us spend extensive amounts of time indoors or in urban spaces.
At Lake Country House, we are situated between the multiple Welsh nature reserves, our hotel sits on the precipice of a lake and a river, and we are surrounded by enchanting woodland. So we have a deep understanding of the impact nature has on our day-to-day lives and the effect it has on our guests.
That’s why we are excited about the new concept that has taken the UK by storm, forest bathing. In this blog, we discuss what forest bathing is, where it comes from and the benefits of forest bathing for both your physical and mental health.
What Is Forest Bathing?
Unlike the name suggests, no actual bathing is required when forest bathing. Forest bathing is the act of spending time amongst the trees in a calm and silent manner while breathing deeply and observing the nature that surrounds you. Based on ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, forest bathing is the act of absorbing your surrounding nature through the 5 senses. Creating intentional thoughts of observation of the forest and connecting to the nature which surrounds you.
Where Did Forest Bathing Originate?
The term shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing, originated in Japan in the early 1980s and was coined by Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki. His research into mindfulness in nature was sparked by the chronic-stress crisis seen in Japan which was impacting Japanese citizens' mental and physical health. Health issues such as increased auto-immune diseases, increased blood pressure and heart attacks.
After conducting countless studies on the impact of forest bathing on treating chronic stress and the ailments associated with it, they found that forest bathing significantly reduced the stress hormone cortisol levels in the test subjects.
The practice of forest bathing has now become a worldwide phenomenon and people across the globe are exploring their local woodland in search of the perfect forest bathing spots.
What Are The Effects Of Forest Bathing?
In addition to the initial study conducted in Japan by Miyazaki, there has been countless other research studies into the effect and benefits of forest bathing.
What Are The Effects Of Forest Bathing On Blood Pressure?
Although it is normal for our blood pressure to rise slightly in moments of stress, having continuously high blood pressure increases your risk of developing chronic, or long-lasting, high blood pressure in the future. In the UK, 74% of adults report having experienced chronic stress. Along with diet and alcohol consumption, there is an increased risk for many of us to develop permanent high blood pressure. This can increase your risk of:
- Heart Dieses
- Heart Attacks
An American Study found that after partaking in a forest bathing session, the test subjects' Systolic blood pressure fell by up to 13.2% and the diastolic blood pressure lowered by up to 15.3%.
The study concluded that incorporating forest bathing into a good diet and light exercise regime can over time help to lower blood pressure.
What Are The Effects Of Forest Bathing On Cortisol Levels?
Cortisol is the hormone our body produces when we have a rush of adrenaline, which often happens when we are put under stress. There are cortisol receptors throughout our body, and cortisol helps to perform functions, such as:
- blood sugar regulation
- inflammation reduction
- metabolism regulation
- memory formulation
Cortisol is crucial in a legitimately life-threatening situation as it increases the function of our senses. However, day-to-day stresses have been known to raise our cortisol levels as well. High levels of cortisol can:
- Weight gain, mostly around the midsection and upper back and face.
- Thinning skin and easy bruising.
- Weakened immune system.
- Slower healing.
- Muscle weakness.
- Severe fatigue.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Reduced memory function.
- Irritability and mood swings.
- difficulty focusing.
- High blood pressure.
All these symptoms of high cortisol can affect your quality of life; however, some studies have found that just one session of forest bathing can reduce your cortisol levels by 12.4%!
Through the relaxing effect, nature has on humans and by reducing stressful thinking, it can bring your body out of fight or flight mode and into a calm state.
How Does Forest Bathing Affect Depression And Anxiety?
One of the most notable effects of forest bathing is the reduction in feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger. These feelings are felt by all of us at one time or another, however, it has been noted that there is an increasing diagnosis of chronic, anxiety and depression in the UK.
Coping with these feelings can be difficult, whether they are a regular occurrence or not. Forest bathing has been shown to drastically reduce these feelings after just one session, with all test subjects in the Japanese study reporting a happy and calm mood after just one forest bathing session.
It is no secret that spending time in nature and mindfulness are proven to improve mental health, so combining the two Is a fantastic tool when it comes to mental well-being.
How Does Forest Bathing Affect Your Immune System?
Our immune system is the way in which our body fights our illness and disease and gets us well again, but when this isn’t functioning as well as it should find ourselves unwell for much longer. When you go forest bathing you breathe in phytoncides which as produced by the surrounding trees and plants. Phytoncides have been proven to enhance the activity of the cells our bodies use to fight disease.
Where Should I Forest Bathe?
The UK is littered with woodlands and forests, some ancient and some small. Although forest bathing can work in your local woodland you will gain the best results in woodlands further away from civilisation, where you can’t hear cars or towns.
Tips for Forest Bathing
If you have never forest bathed before, here are some tips to help you have a successful first session:
Turn off your devices and remove any distractions.
Slow down when you move through the forest so you can see and feel more.
Take slow breaths deep into the abdomen and control your exhale.
Be mindful of your thoughts, when your mind wonders about the future of past stress bring it back to your surroundings.
Be present and in the moment.
Stop, stand or sit, and ask yourself: what can I smell? What can I hear? What can I see? What can I touch and how does it feel?
Wales is the perfect place to forest bath as it is covered in protected woodland that expands for miles! If you are looking to escape your town or city to a lakeside paradise nestled in woodland, then Lake Country House is the perfect setting for your forest bathing getaway as you can see from the photos in this blog.
Why not check out our latest blog on why you deserve a lake-side getaway this spring.