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Stressed and Overwhelmed? The Ancient Practice of Forest Bathing Soothes Tension Naturally

It's study-proven to lower your blood pressure and curb a negative mood

For many women over 50, the burden of chronic stress feels like an unwelcome constant. It not only zaps your energy, but it can also take a toll on your physical and mental health. But there’s a simple, natural solution that can help: forest bathing.

No, this doesn’t mean soaking in a tub surrounded by trees. Rather, it’s a mindful immersion in the atmosphere of the forest. We got the expert rundown on the science behind forest bathing and its potential to relieve stress, improve mood and boost overall well-being. Plus, see the three simple steps that can help you tap into the benefits. 

What is forest bathing?

Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-Yoku, is an ancient Japanese practice. It encourages you to slow down, disconnect from technology and connect with nature through your senses. It’s a sensory experience that allows you to truly disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with the natural world. 

What’s the deal with stress? 

When we’re constantly under pressure, our bodies release stress hormones like cortisol. “The negative impacts are both physical and emotional,” explains Allison Chase, PhD, CEDS-S, Regional Clinical Director at Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center in Austin, Texas.

“We know that stress, which is a biological experience and has direct connect with the central nervous system, can negatively impact ones body by increasing heart rate,” she says. “This can create gastro-intestine [stomach] problems, impact hormone balance and create anxiety that impacts one’s functioning in their daily life and among relationships as well.”

The benefits of forest bathing 

Chase explains that “spending time in nature, with more serene and slower paced stimuli, can be very calming to the nervous system, where stress and cortisol levels are impacted.” 

But to get this result, it requires being completely present. “The key is to slow down and take in the environment and its natural beauty,” which also helps the body calm down, emphasizes Chase. “Without the input of screens and other modern or electronic stimuli, one’s brain [aka neurons] can calm down. This slows down the entire body to be more calm and relaxed.”

Additionally, nature itself can be a great boost for your overall wellbeing. “Nature offers stimuli that can impact a number of senses, [such as] touch, sound and smell,” adds Chase. “Whenever our senses can be heightened in a healthy, positive, serene way, it is always good for the body and brain.” In fact, a study in Environmental health and preventive medicine found that forest bathing significantly lowered blood pressure and reduced negative moods.

See also: How Nature Can Boost Your Happiness: 4 Easy Ways to Reap More Joy

How to practice forest bathing 

mature woman sitting under a tree by a lake practicing forest bathing

Ready to trade your daily stressors for the serenity of the woods? “The important element of forest bathing is to allow oneself the space and patience to experience nature and ‘sit in it’,” says Chase. She recommends setting “clear and realistic expectations for starting small and celebrating the fact that change is even being attempted.” Here’s how to do just that.

1. Find your sanctuary

Look for a local park, nature preserve or even your own backyard if it boasts a decent tree coverage. Find a place that feels calming and allows you to disconnect from everyday life. This also means silencing your phone and tucking it away.

2. Slow down and savor

Forest bathing isn’t a race. Meander along a path at a leisurely pace, allowing yourself to truly appreciate the sights and sounds around you. Take slow, deliberate breaths of the fresh air. You can even stop and sit under a shade tree for a while. Your session doesn’t have to be long — aim for 30 minutes to start.

3. Engage your senses

Don’t just look — touch, smell, listen and really see everything around you. Take note of the soft aroma of fresh blooms, how freshly-cut grass feels against your bare feet or the vibrant colors of a passing butterfly. If worries or negative thoughts start to creep kind, gently guide your thoughts back to the present and the beauty surrounding you.

For more natural ways to relieve stress:

Can Sound Baths for Anxiety Ease Your Stress? What You Need to Know

Stressed? Tired of Making Decisions? Experts Share 4 Easy Ways to Give Your Brain a Break & Find Peace

Genius Tapping Trick Tames Chronic Stress + More Easy Ways To Reduce Cortisol

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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