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Published on January 13, 2021

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

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 May 25, 2021

How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

Have you ever had chills, a stuffy nose, a sore throat, a cough, or perhaps even a fever? More than likely you must have experienced at least some of these symptoms at one time or another in your life. You knew that you were sick, perhaps with a common cold, maybe the flu, or possibly a viral infection of some sort.

Either way, no matter what the diagnosis might have been at the time, you didn’t feel well, and therefore, you probably took some form of action to help alleviate the symptoms so that you could feel better, perhaps some medicine, followed up with maybe a little chicken noodle soup, a glass of orange juice, and some bed rest. Nevertheless, when it comes to seeking treatment for symptoms of mental illness, there seems to be a big difference between the way that we look at healing the body and the mind.

First of all, there are some common stigmas associated with mental illness. People, in general, seem to have a hard time admitting that they are having a problem with their mental health.[1]

We all want our social media profiles to look amazing, filled with images of exotic vacations, fancy food, the latest fashion, and of course, plenty of smiling faces taken at just the right angle. There is an almost instinctive aversion to sharing our true feelings or emotionally opening up to others, especially when we are going through a difficult time in our lives. Perhaps it has something to do with the fear of being emotionally vulnerable, open, and completely honest about our true inner feelings—perhaps we just don’t want to be a burden.

Additionally, throughout history, many people with mental illness have been ostracized and subjugated as outcasts. As a result, some may choose to avoid seeking help as long as possible to elude being ridiculed by others or presumably looked down upon in some way. Furthermore, rather than scheduling an appointment to meet with a board-certified psychiatrist, many people find themselves self-medicating with mood-altering substances, such as drugs and alcohol to try and cope with their symptoms.[2]

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We all want to have a sound mind and body with the ability to function independently without having to depend on anyone—or, for that matter, anything else for help. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, you may just have to find the will and the way to reach out for help before the symptoms become unmanageable.

Lastly, although we may all have the ability to gain insight into any given situation, it’s almost impossible to maintain a completely objective point of view when it comes to identifying the depth and dimension of any of our own symptoms of mental illness given the fact that our perception of the problem may in fact be clouded by the very nature of the underlying illness itself. In other words, even though symptoms of mental illness may be present, you may be suffering from a disorder that actually impairs your ability to see them.

As a professional dual-diagnosis interventionist and a licensed psychotherapist with over two decades of experience working with people all over the world battling symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse—combined with my own personal insight into the subject, perhaps now more than ever—I am confident that you will appreciate learning how to recognize a variety of symptoms associated with some of the most common types of mental illness.

1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent flashbacks and nightmares associated with previously experienced or witnessed life-threatening or traumatic events.[3] The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

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  • recurrent and unwanted memories of an event
  • flashbacks to the event in “real-time”
  • nightmares involving the trauma
  • a physical reaction to an event that triggers traumatic memories
  • avoiding conversation related to the traumatic event
  • active avoidance of people, places, and things that trigger thoughts of the event
  • a sense of hopelessness
  • memory loss related to traumatic events
  • detached relationships
  • lack of interest in normal daily activities
  • feeling constantly guarded
  • feeling as if in constant danger
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • being easily startled
  • insomnia
  • substance abuse
  • engaging in dangerous behaviors

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent unwanted thoughts followed by urges to act on those thoughts repeatedly.[4] The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • anxiety when an item is not in order or its correct position
  • recurrent and frequent doubt if doors have been locked
  • recurrent and frequent doubt if electronic devices and appliances have been turned off
  • recurrent and frequent fear of contamination by disease or poison
  • avoidance of social engagements with fear of touching others.
  • hand-washing
  • counting
  • checking
  • repetition of statements
  • positioning of items in strict order

3. Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by a persistent depressed mood that impairs the ability to function. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • sleep disturbances such as both insomnia and oversleep
  • overwhelming feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of appetite as well as overeating
  • thoughts of suicide

4. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that may be characterized by uncontrollable mood swings ranging from severe depression to extreme mania. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

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Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • easily distracted
  • racing thoughts
  • exaggerated euphoric sense of self-confidence
  • easily agitated
  • hyperverbal
  • markedly increased level of activity
  • overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  • lack of interest or pleasure in activities normally enjoyed
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • sleep disturbances such as both insomnia and oversleep
  • overwhelming feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • lack of appetite as well as overeating
  • thoughts of suicide

5. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a thought disorder characterized by a breakdown between beliefs, emotions, and behaviors caused by delusions and hallucinations.[5]  The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • delusions with false beliefs
  • hallucinations with a false sensory perception
  • disorganized thought with a meaningless unintelligible pattern of communication
  • disorganized behavior with catatonic appearance, bizarre posture, excessive agitation
  • flat affect
  • lack of eye contact
  • poor personal hygiene

6. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat and excessive exercise. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

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  • extreme loss of weight
  • emaciated appearance
  • eroded teeth
  • thinning hair
  • dizziness
  • swollen extremities
  • dehydration
  • arrhythmia
  • irritated skin on knuckles
  • extreme food restriction
  • excessive exercise
  • self-induced vomiting
  • excessive fear of gaining weight
  • use of layered clothing to cover up body imperfections

7. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight due to a distorted body image where large amounts of food are consumed and then purged. The symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities and fulfill personal responsibilities.

Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with this disorder:

  • self-induced vomiting
  • consuming abnormally large amounts of food with the intent to purge
  • the constant fear of gaining weight
  • excessive exercising
  • excessive use of laxatives and diuretics to lose weight
  • food restriction
  • shame and guilt

Final Thoughts

From bipolar disorder to bulimia, major depression to dysthymia, there is a mental health diagnosis to fit any combination of symptoms that you may be experiencing. There are also a variety of corresponding self-assessment tests circulating all over the internet for you to choose from.

However, if you are looking for a proper diagnosis, I strongly suggest that you make an appointment to meet with a well-trained mental health professional in your community for more comprehensive and conclusive findings. Similar to cancer, early detection and treatment may significantly improve the prognosis for recovery.[6] And like I said, it’s impossible to be completely objective when it comes to self-diagnosing the condition of your own mental health or that of a loved one.

Furthermore, although the corner pharmacy may have plenty of over-the-counter medications that claim to help you fall asleep faster and even stay asleep longer, at the end of the day, no medication can actually resolve the underlying issues that have been negatively impacting your ability to sleep in the first place.

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Just like in business—and in the immortal words of Thomas A. Edison—“there is no substitute for hard work.” So, try to set aside as much time as you can to work on improving your mental health. After all, you are your most influential advocate, and your mind is your greatest asset.

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Featured photo credit: Sydney Sims via unsplash.com

Reference

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