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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

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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