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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 February 26, 2021

3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

Are you feeling amplified anxiety, sadness, or anger lately? An astounding 84% of adults have felt at least one of these stress-related emotions in the two weeks prior to being surveyed, according to this recent Stress in America report.[1] Although it’s often comforting to know you’re not alone, the pervasiveness of this particular shared experience is disconcerting. But first, what causes stress?

What Causes Stress?

Lurking beneath the surface of this collective situation are some deeper factors: feelings of powerlessness and a diminished sense of certainty.

Due to a variety of events over the past year, control over numerous elements of our lives has been stripped away, leaving us feeling frustrated, afraid, and unsure about the future. It’s as if someone took the puzzle of our lives, broke apart every segment we had painstakingly pieced together, then shook them up and dumped them into a scrambled mess on the floor. On top of that, we’re trying to put it all back together while slogging through in survival mode, every day, on repeat—it’s enough to make even the Energizer Bunny feel depleted.

From this place of disempowered overwhelm, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like there is little we can do to regain our footing and overcome the stress. However, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Let’s look on the bright side: We can all improve our energy and relieve stress simply by shifting a few essential habits.

When everything feels out of control, here are 3 often-overlooked areas where you can be in control and obliterate the common causes of stress that are depleting your energy. Each is proven to directly compound stress and deplete energy when neglected but enhance energy and stress relief when managed proactively.

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1. Sleep Quality Secrets to Snub the Stubborn Stress-Fatigue Cycle

You may be well aware of how stress disrupts or prevents a good night’s rest. Frustrations over the day’s events or anxiety about what’s coming tomorrow are common blocks to getting enough zzzz’s. But did you know that the reverse is also true?

Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. One such study found that subjects who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. They also cited a dramatic improvement in mood upon return to normal sleep. [2]

In addition to these directly mood-related symptoms, lack of sleep can cause muddled focus, fatigue, and impairment of information processing which often result in secondary causes of stress. We feel like the walls are falling around us as we run behind schedule, struggle to collect scrambled thoughts, suffer the consequences of knee-jerk reactions, and fight the inevitable downsides of exhaustion, including clouded judgment, inhibited self-control, and difficulty in making decisions or completing tasks.

Unfortunately, our favorite fixes are actually counterproductive. Two of the most common substances used in direct response to not getting enough sleep—alcohol to relax us enough to fall asleep and caffeine to perk us up after inadequate sleep—only worsen our ability to secure consistent and restful slumber, creating a vicious cycle. Relying on these “band-aid fixes” only amplifies and prolongs our feelings of stress.[3][4]

Ultimately, sleep deprivation secretly undermines our ability to make smart choices when it comes to regaining control over the other causes of stress which are depleting our energy.

Here are two simple tips to help you sleep better tonight:

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  • Turn off all screens at least one hour before hitting the hay to send the signal to your brain that it’s bedtime and ease your mind into sleepy relaxation.
  • Be intentional with your soothing bedtime rituals. Instead of mindlessly passing the time in the hours before you turn in, focus on an activity that feels soothing and nurturing like a foot massage or a few gentle yoga poses.

2. Focus on Comfort Food for Extra Energy and Simple Stress Relief

The word “malnutrition” is commonly associated with poverty-related food shortages. However, in the medical world, the prefix “mal-” is also defined as “defective.” By broadening our understanding of this term, we can see that nutrient deficiencies can happen for people of any socioeconomic status—and they do.

The hustle culture endorsed by the industrialized world has created an abundance of quick and convenient food (and, let’s be honest, “fake food”) options that are minimally nourishing. The USDA’s most recent Dietary Guidelines reports that about two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, yet inadequate intake of nutrients that are proven to both relieve stress and increase energy (e.g., B vitamins and magnesium) remains common.[5][6] The data clearly shows that, for the majority of adults in the USA, the quality of our food is disproportionate to the quantity.

This reality has been compounded by pandemic-related stress eating, which is so prevalent that participants of a study published in September 2020 averaged a staggering 7 lbs weight gain in only 4 months.[7] This snapshot demonstrates that the foods we tend to crave, either for comfort or convenience, are usually high in sugars, saturated fats, and simple carbohydrates—all of which actually amplifies the stress response in the body.[8]

There is a funny-not-funny irony in the fact that the acronym for the U.S. eating style is SAD (Standard American Diet). We readily sacrifice nutrient needs for the sake of saving our time and money, which are poured right back into the culture that requires us to be so busy. We are drawn to unhealthy comfort foods like moths to a flame in an attempt to soothe ourselves—yet these exact foods only lead to feeling even more stressed and depleted.

So, what can we do?

Making smart food choices in itself is inherently stressful for many people. The internal battle can be just as impactful in causing stress and depleting your energy as the food choices themselves. If you can relate, don’t worry. It’s not necessary to focus on calorie counting or weight loss here.

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Instead, take comfort in a couple of easily doable steps toward shifting your dietary habits:

  • Be mindful of your intake of highly processed foods, and enjoy the benefits of simply adding a few stress-relieving, energizing foods and beverages to your daily repertoire.
  • Water, green tea, Brazil nuts, sweet potatoes, fresh baby spinach, brown rice, avocados, oatmeal, bananas, salmon, lean beef, and blueberries are all great choices to get you started.

3. A Surprising Battle for Your Attention, and How to Win the War

The pressure to be “always-on” has long been a major cause of stress for highly driven people. We live in an internet-centric world that has only been compounded by the circumstances of the pandemic. Working from home has blurred the lines between personal and professional boundaries, and many are suffering the consequences.

The combination of issues culminating from the past year has also kept people glued to the media and their newsfeeds. If you ever feel angry, anxious, sad, hopeless, or exhausted after watching the news or scrolling social media, this could be one of the main causes of stress that is depleting your energy. In fact, a study showed elevated levels of stress hormone (cortisol) and increased negative response to subsequent stressors after watching negative news.[9]

Research even shows that smartphones and social media apps manipulate the dopamine-driven reward system in our brains to create a habit that mimics gambling addiction.[10] Even when these tools don’t cost money, they have the capacity to deplete something much more valuable—our time, energy, and peace of mind.

This volatile mix may be generating a baseline cause of stress that has led directly to some of the other causes of stress mentioned in this article, including lack of sleep, alcohol or caffeine use, and unsupportive food choices/mindless eating.

Now, more than ever, we need to resist the urge to bombard our brains with fear-based information and distraction-inducing habits.

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Forward-focused actions to take now:

  • Create firm boundaries around your “check-in” time for reading and responding to emails or social media, both personal and professional.
  • Disable notifications on your devices to eliminate distractions.
  • Eliminate or minimize news exposure and only consume news from deliberately selected sources.
  • Stay focused on your top priorities and make sure your actions are aligned. Put this note on your screensaver/wallpaper as a reminder: “Is my behavior getting me what I want?”

Putting the Pieces Back Together

By flipping our perspective, we can see these lifestyle choices as the active causes of stress that they are, instead of stress aftereffects that are outside of our control. Circumstance might have made a mess of our puzzles, but we each have the power to pick up the pieces.

With a few simple shifts and a dedication to change, we can stop approaching them from a passive or reactive stance and take intentional action to improve our daily life. Just pause, look at the big picture, and reclaim control—then, watch as the puzzle pieces of your life click back into place with more energized ease and calm.

Tips on How to Handle Stress

Featured photo credit: engin akyurt via unsplash.com

Reference

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