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Published on January 13, 2021

What Is Forest Bathing And How To Unwind Your Mind With It

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What Is Forest Bathing And How To Unwind Your Mind With It

If you somewhat love nature and want to unwind your mind, then forest bathing is the right therapy for you. It’s a chance to not only discover more about your connection between you and nature but more importantly, to also improve your overall health—to better understand your senses and intensify them.

I started writing this article just after my daily ritual of forest bathing. During my stay at my parents’ house, who live just a few walking minutes from a huge forest that stretches for many miles, I used the occasion to again explore the region I once roamed when I was a child.

Back in the days, when we used to play there, I surely wasn’t aware of the influence that the forest had on my mental well-being, and I never thought that I would appreciate this rich environment to this extent. I was spontaneously connected with it—like being one with it.

Forest bathing was something that our ancestors just naturally did, not seeing it as a form of therapy but just a way of living. Today, we use it to recharge our batteries and unwind our minds.

The Urban Jungle vs. Forest Bathing

Why is bathing in the woods prescribed by some doctors as a therapy for reducing stress? Forest bathing researcher explains that “spending time among trees offers a panacea for a range of modern ills, including stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as the power to boost the immune system, decrease anger and even help you sleep better.”[1]

As our daily life became digitalized and we spending more of our time in modern infrastructure in between shopping malls, offices, airplanes, metros, trains, cars, and so on, our connection with the healing energy from the forest diminished.

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All of the comfortable but artificial spaces in which we spent most of our time seem to give us a sense of efficiency, safety, and productivity but take away our vitality, versatility, and creativity.

This is where the problem for stress creation begins as well as the trigger for a loss of passion towards what we do. Nonetheless, we began to think that life is to be found more in the midst of industrial cities—that life there is vital and creative—however, it turns out that the velocity of that life is just ill dynamic that breeds more stress and struggle than it creates vitality and creativity.

Therefore, forest bathing is prescribed as a stress reduction therapy to re-establish the connection with the source we basically come from—the forest.

The Idea of Forest Bathing

Physically reconnecting with nature is important, but if the emotional connection to nature—and, in particular, to the forest—is missing, the forest bathing has only a little effect. If you want to benefit maximally from the forest, you need to take it within you; the trees, the smell, the scenery, the humidity, and everything else that goes along with it.

Even when you’re physically not in the forest anymore, the forest is inside of you. Alone, the thought about the trees—being your external lungs—should evoke positive emotions and peacefulness.

We must not forget our roots and must return there (emotionally)—to where our food, our earliest skills, and inventions began. Deep in our spirit, we are “forest dwellers,” and all of our “lower” knowledge about construction, architecture, medicine, gastronomy, craftsmanship, and many other artisan skills have been learned from the woods and in the woods.

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The least you can do today, being an urban living being, is renounce just a few metropolitan habits (the ones that are responsible for your distress) and go out to hug an oak, a cedar, or even a birch—to look at a flower and understand the bees and feel the smell of the surrounding trees.

This is the idea of forest bathing. So, get out there and make the connection! In the next section, I’ll give an example of my connection with forest bathing. It simple and you can gain great value out of it by applying it.

Why Is the Forest So Powerful?

Did you know that the birth of the Upanishads—the people that researched the human consciousness and the universal consciousness to an unprecedented extent, creating the concept of meditation—found a place in the big forests of India? Therefore, the name for one of the earliest Upanishad is “Brihadaranyaka Upanishad—the Big Forest.”[2]

They retreated from civilization and went into the woods to contemplate the essence of life and explore the essence of the human mind. The forest was their temple, their shrine—it gave them stillness and calmness for exploring themselves. It gave them harmony of just being a plain human being,  unconditioned by ideologies created by corrupt individuals; it gave them space for opening their minds and look into the vast capacity of consciousness.

Before I started to study the Upanishads, I already have made a connection with the forest and fell in love with the trees. And to this day, I withdraw an enormous amount of energy out of them—their energy flushes all the unnecessary thoughts out of my mind.

I moved to a place which is literally in the forest, and I am surrounded by hundreds of different trees. I can set new goals when I spend time looking at them.

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How to Unwind Your Mind With Forest Bathing

I guess you have been many times in the forest, in the mountains, or the groves near your house. If you haven’t felt what proper forest bathing is, the next time you go to the forest, follow these steps:

1. Take a Good Look

Take a good look at the forest before you walk in it. Recognize it as your external lungs and get ready to get physically and biologically in touch with it. Understand that there is a molecular interaction between you and the whole forest. You inhale the oxygen from the trees as they inhale the carbon dioxide you exhale.

At this level, you are one with the forest—you both breathe together. This is the highlight of forest bathing, and it stands higher than your connection with it on a sensory level. However, the smell of the trees, flowers, and weeds, the look at all the marvelous colors that the forest offers and the sound that the trees, the birds, and the bees produce are pure enjoyment for your senses.

2. Smell the Odor of the Forest

As you continue to walk inside of the forest, smell the odor that the forest is spraying throughout its humidity, and deepen your inhalation gradually. Breathe gently, slowly, and deeply, intensifying your sense of smell. Identify, if you can, the different odors that the forest is producing. Enjoy your walk as you breathe deeply, and explore all the different odors. Make it a meaningful and significant experience for you.

3, Sit on a Rock or a Trunk of a Tree

After a while, sit on some bench, rock, or a trunk of a tree. Get in touch with nature, physically—hold a piece of wood, a branch, or a flower in your hand. Just sense how it feels. Touch a leaf or hug a tree—feel their energy. Know that a tree carries a great history within itself—some 350 million years.[3]

4. Have a Look Around

Have a look around you and see all the different colors that the forest displays—the colors of the trees’ trunks, the branches, and the leaves. Enjoy the beautiful scenery which magically changes its colors according to the season of the year.

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5. Listen

Finally, listen and hear the different sounds emerging from all parts of the forest, close and distant—the sound of the wind blowing the trees, the sound of the leaves, and the different sounds of the chirping birds. Let the sound of the forest occupy your mind and feel the positive vibration resonating through your whole body, especially in your head.

Final Thoughts

Bathe in all these sensations by making your connection to nature deeper. Learn to respect nature, and see it as your greatest energy resource. Consciously engrave these sensations and experiences within you, saying to yourself that you won’t forget them even after walking out of the forest.

Promise to yourself that these essential qualities that the forest instilled in you will resonate when you go back to your urban jungle. Take it all with you and carry this energy inside of you-let it grow by consciously taking slow deep breaths. The forest lives inside of you.

More Benefits of Forest Bathing

Featured photo credit: Yanny Mishchuk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Japan Times: Stressed out? Bathing in the woods is just what the doctor ordered
[2] Britannica: Hinduism: The Upanishads
[3] Plant Evolution & Paleobotany: Rise of Trees

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Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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Published on August 23, 2021

Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine?

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Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine?

If you suffer from depression or suddenly experience bouts of sadness that seem to come out of nowhere, you probably wonder why this is happening. The truth is that there are several possibilities, and you aren’t alone. According to the World Health Organization, in January of 2020, more than 264 million people were diagnosed with depression and is the leading cause of disability worldwide.[1] In this article, I will answer the question: why am I depressed if my life is fine?” I will discuss what depression is and what the possible causes of depression are. Additionally, I will offer some solutions to consider as you navigate the depression you are experiencing.

The question of why you are depressed if your life is fine is one that I can personally identify with, as I can remember a time when I went through an intense depression even though, in many ways, my life couldn’t have been much better. I was financially secure, had a good family, lived in a beautiful place, had a pretty adventurous and exciting life, but none of that could have prevented a serious and prolonged battle with depression.

Given that you are here reading this article now, you will hopefully be able to identify the problem early and get the support you need to fend off any significant depressive episodes, as this can make a huge difference in your battle with depression.

Furthermore, you don’t have to live with depression! Despite the debilitating effects of depression, with the right treatment and support, it is also one of the more “curable” mental health disorders and you can overcome it.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, irritability, and in the worst cases, despair and suicidality.

Depression from a clinical perspective is classified into a few distinctive categories, two of the more common categories are; major depression and dysthymia. According to the DSM 5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual—which governs the diagnosis of psychiatric and mental health disorders—major depression is classified as experiencing five or more symptoms in the same two-week period and must include a loss in pleasure as well as a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.[2]

The criteria are:

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  • Loss of pleasure or joy
  • Intense feelings of sadness and depressed mood most of the day, almost every day
  • Difficulty sleeping or disturbed sleep
  • Change in appetite (increased or decreased appetite) and a 5% change in body weight
  • Difficulty focusing, poor concentration
  • Psychomotor agitation or slowing down
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Persistent thoughts of death, dying, and suicide

Dysthymia is an ongoing or persistent depressed mood for a period of two years where you feel sadness more days than not. It will include at least two of the following symptoms when depressed:

  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (having more sleep than usual)
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor concentration
  • Feeling of hopelessness

The above symptoms of dysthymia can coincide with the symptoms of major depression.

Causes of Depression

Depression happens for several reasons that I categorize into three: biology, environment, and situation. Depression also tends to occur in more sensitive people, tend to overthink, and get stuck in their thoughts, which—more times than not—are negative.

Biological causes of depression are related to how your body produces neurotransmitters that impact your moods, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Some people might have a biological predisposition for depression and never experience any significant symptoms but when confronted with a challenging life situation, such as a loss or disappointment, it can send them into a tailspin of despondency and intense feelings of low and sad mood.

Depression caused by one’s environment is more about those you might have grown up with, your family, and your home environment, which could also be connected to heredity. Regardless of your biological predisposition, you learn how to handle challenges in life by observing those around you.

Adults, in particular, are role models for children and will likely deal with life in similar ways as to what they observed. For example, a child who grows up witnessing partner abuse between their parents is at increased risk of either being a victim or perpetrator of violence in an intimate relationship as an adult.[3]

Situational depression, as I mentioned above, can be seen as more of a cause-and-effect relationship. When you are confronted with a particular life challenge or change, such as job loss, geographic relocation, or family and financial stress, these situations can cause you to fall into a temporary or prolonged depression.

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In some cases, depression can be a combination of all of the above.

Examples of Causes of Depression

Below are some examples of situations that might lead you to experience a prolonged period of depression.

Grief

The loss of a loved one, especially when sudden and traumatic, can bring about intense feelings of loss and sadness, which can lead to clinical depression. This includes the death of pets.

Medical Issue or Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with a medical issue, especially if chronic and progressive, is much like any other loss you might experience. It represents the loss of a life you had. Very often, there will need to be changes made in one’s life that will not allow for a lifestyle previously enjoyed.

A Feeling of Failure or Perceived Shortcomings

As I mentioned, people who experience depression tend to be sensitive and self-critical. You might be struggling with not getting a job promotion or failing to progress in the way you imagined for yourself, but this doesn’t mean that you are not progressing in some other way.

Sudden Life Change

Changes—even good changes and welcomed changes—are hard. Sometimes, these changes can have an impact on your role and status in society like marriage or parenthood, which are both wonderful changes yet fraught with many challenges and new social roles.

Feeling Trapped or With Limited Options

Having options is both a blessing and a curse. We know that the more options we have, the less happy we are and the more anxious we might tend to feel, wanting and needing to make the right decision. However, on the flip side, the idea that you don’t have any options can also lead to feeling trapped and feeling that your life circumstances are already written in stone.

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Burnout

Job stress, being overworked and underpaid, or the lack of fulfillment in your profession can lead to depression, which might also coincide with the feeling of being trapped and feeling as though you don’t have many options in your life and career.

What Can You Do If You Experience Depression?

It may sometimes feel as though, out of nowhere, that you are hit with depression, and this is true for many people who have a biologically based depression. However, I would argue that whenever there is something like depression or anxiety—which are defense mechanisms—there is something in your life that is not 100% congruent with who you are and where your life is at or going.

This essentially means that it’s time to take a step back and reassess a few things in life. It doesn’t mean that you will be able to wright the ship entirely. However, you might be able to make some small changes that will help you feel more in control of your life and the direction that you are going in.

1. Consider Therapy

Therapy will help you take stock and think about what is happening in your life and where you might be able to make some changes. Needless to say, you will also have the support you need to embark on making those changes. It could also be a chance to identify what it is in your life that is causing the depression. A therapist can also help you connect to other supports that might help you as you work through this period in your life.

2. Group Support Network

Processing hurt and pain through the group experience is a powerful method of connecting with yourself and others who might be experiencing similar challenges. Part of the value of group experience is knowing that you are not alone and that you have support not just from professionals but also from other people just like you.

3. Self Assessment

Self-assessment involves assessing where you are in your life in relation to your life goals, your relationships, and the direction that you are headed. Maybe it is time to make a pivot and change course, which could be a very scary thing. Bringing this kind of information to therapy will be very valuable and will assist you in the therapeutic process.

4. Take Some Time Off

Taking some time off will be and can be helpful in many ways. If you are experiencing burnout, this will give you more time for self-care and help you give yourself a break. Moreover, taking a time off gives you more time to do some of the things I described above in therapy, group work, and self-assessment.

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5. Are You Bored?

Sometimes, when we lack stimulation or work in a job for which we are overqualified, we might find ourselves feeling underutilized and as if we are not meeting our potential. This would, hopefully, come out in a self-assessment and could indicate the need to make a change in your work life.

Depression and Suicide

Depression is a serious mental health disorder. Thirty to seventy percent of deaths by suicide are attributed to major depression or bipolar disorder.[4] If you or someone you love is experiencing depression and expresses thoughts or statements about death and suicide, consult with your medical professional or mental health counselor. People who receive treatment for depression have an 80 to 90% rate of success from therapy and/or medication.

Suffice to say, if you get the treatment you need for depression, your chances of recovering skyrocket. Again, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to live with depression. Get the right treatment,[5] and you can have a whole new lease on life.

Final Thoughts

Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by feelings of sadness for a long period of time. Many people throughout their lives will experience some depression in varying degrees. If you notice that what you are experiencing resembles any of what I have described above, please know that you can make changes and you can live a life free of depression. Getting help, support, and treatment is essential to addressing the depression or changes in your life that might need to be considered.

More Tips on Coping With Depression

Featured photo credit: Paola Chaaya via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The World Health Organization: Depression
[2] NCBI: The DSM-5: Classification and Criteria Changes
[3] OASH: Office on women’s Health: Effects of domestic violence on children
[4] Mental Health America: Suicide
[5] Upside Down Flan: The Best Treatment for Depression

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