In Japan they have a practice known as shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Forest bathing is the practice of spending time in nature for its healing effects. Studies pioneered in Japan revealed that being in nature improves attention, cognition and empathy; reduces anxiety and depression; and helps manage symptoms of ADHD.
Japanese scientists have led the research in the positive health benefits of spending time in nature. They ran experiments in 24 forests across Japan, measuring stress hormones in saliva, blood pressure, heart rate, and mood. They found that walking in nature, for just 15 – 20 minutes, indicated lower concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, and higher rates of stress relief than walking the same amount of time in the city. Walking in the woods also reduced anger, depression, fatigue, and tension, while significantly elevating feelings of vigor.
Based on these and other studies, the Japanese Forest Ministry designated 48 official forest therapy trails throughout the country. Some Japanese companies are even including Forest Therapy in their healthcare benefits. This research has reached outside of Japan. Korea spent $140 million to develop a National Forest Therapy Center, and Finland’s Finnish Forest Research Institute is studying how the diseases and mental disorders associated with our modern stressful lifestyle can be alleviated or managed via Forest Therapy.
Try the Five Senses Exercise while you are in the woods. Really take in the scents, sounds, and sights. Touch tree bark or even the dirt. (But maybe don’t taste random things you find in the woods. That wouldn’t be healthy.) Find a quiet place to sit and meditate. Eat your picnic lunch. Let your body and mind soak up all the good energy to be found amongst the trees.
(Excerpt from Hag Stone Journal Issue 007: Wander)