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If You Find Urban Life Stressful, Study Says You Should Try Bathing In The Forest

If You Find Urban Life Stressful, Study Says You Should Try Bathing In The Forest

Feeling overwhelmed or a bit stressed lately? Good news! There is a new type of therapy (technically not new — it’s been used in Japan for years) sweeping the globe that provides free and all-natural stress relief. It’s called Forest Therapy.

Wait!

Before you close this article, understand that this is a real, scientifically based and researched method that is gaining popularity in therapeutic circles. Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Japan’s leading scholar on forest medicine and director of the Center for Environment Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University, has been conducting physiological experiments to examine whether forests can make people feel at ease. He has concluded that what conventional wisdom knew all along was accurate. The forest, through its aromas, sounds of babbling brooks and creatures stirring, coupled with the feeling of sunshine through forest leaves, can have a soothing effect on the human body.

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The Association of Nature and Forrest Therapy defines forest therapy as:

“…a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments. In Japan it is called shinrin yoku, which translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” Studies have demonstrated a wide array of health benefits, especially in the cardiovascular and immune systems, and for stabilizing and improving mood and cognition.”

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Forest bathing I: https://pixabay.com/en/road-forest-trees-tree-trip-21205/

    Forest bathing provides natural stress relief

    Japanese research shows there are physiological impacts of spending time in the woods. Research findings indicate that it does have measurable health benefits, such as:

    • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells
    • Reduced blood pressure
    • Reduced stress
    • Improved mood
    • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
    • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
    • Increased energy levels
    • Improved sleep

    How it works

    Practicing shinrin yoku is very simple. You go to a forest or heavily wooded area and walk slowly and calmly. Breathe deeply. Allow your senses to become open and engaged. Pretty soon, you will begin to experience the calming, rejuvenating, and restorative benefits of bathing in the forest.

    That’s it.

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    Now, I am sure to some this sounds like a tree-hugging, Eastern religious pseudoscience. However, there is a growing body of evidence that supports the theory that spending time in wooded areas really does have tangible effects on our bodies by boosting energy, combatting depression and anxiety, and providing natural stress relief.

    And if you really think about it, research aside, it actually makes sense. Consider the surroundings of a peacefully wooded area. Crisp clean air fills your nostrils, providing your body with clean oxygen. While breathing in the fresh air, you are also getting a healthy dose of natural aroma therapy.

    Aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine that uses essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds aimed at improving a person’s mental state and mood. Medical News Today describes the science behind aromatherapy as:

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    “… the inhalation of essential oils stimulates the part of the brain connected to smell — the olfactory system; a signal is sent to the limbic system of the brain that controls emotions and retrieves learned memories. This causes chemicals to be released which make the person feel relaxed, calm, or even stimulated.”

    The difference between forest bathing and other outdoor activities

    Forest bathing is different from other activities people associate with the forest such as hiking, jogging, biking, or fishing in that it is a contemplative exercise rather than an active one. Other forest activities can actually raise stress levels, elevating your heart rate and blood pressure. This process slows down all of the body’s systems, allows the mind to relax, and purposefully engages all of the senses. With other activities, the woods merely serve as a backdrop and the main activities take center stage.

    The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy is just one organization of many that is providing therapeutic services to individuals, groups, and organizations by arranging guided tours by trained and certified forest therapy guides. These services and tours are perfect for those interested in reaping the benefits of all-natural stress relief but are unsure how to get started.

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    Denise Hill

    Speech Writer/Senior Editor

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

    If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

    1. Breathe

    The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

    • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
    • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
    • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

    Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

    2. Loosen up

    After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

    Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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    3. Chew slowly

    Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

    Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

    Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

    4. Let go

    Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

    The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

    It’s not. Promise.

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    Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

    Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

    21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

    5. Enjoy the journey

    Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

    Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

    6. Look at the big picture

    The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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    Will this matter to me…

    • Next week?
    • Next month?
    • Next year?
    • In 10 years?

    Hint: No, it won’t.

    I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

    Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

    7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

    You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

    Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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    8. Practice patience every day

    Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

    • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
    • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
    • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

    Final thoughts

    Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

    Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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