How Getting Back to Nature Supports Your Mental Health

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Forest bathing might just bring you back to your senses.

Getting back to nature is officially a stress reliever with its own title, “forest bathing”.

Also called ecotherapy and nature therapy, it all started in Japan, in the 1980s as a psychological and physiological tool called shinrin-yoku which means forest bath. 

It is the official practise of deliberately connecting yourself with the energy of the natural world. There are people who even say it increases your life span.

Forestbathing is said to help conquer disease, heart problems, blood pressure, stress, and even lifespan and death.

The health aspects are achieved by slowing the body down, and slowing down cortisol production, heart rate and the sympathetic nerve responses, a little like yoga.

It is no wonder Forest Bathing is being talked about and back on the radar at this time in the world.

woman in red top and blue jeans in the Australian Outback.
Renae on a Djriba Waagura Cultural Walk, Shoalhaven, NSW

And it’s relatively easy to do – and free in Australia. You simply go to a forest, and instead of hiking through it, you walk very slowly, listening and breathing into the energy of the trees and the natural surrounds. It’s almost a combination of walking and meditation combined with the best of nature.

A simple guide to Forest Bathing is:

  1. Find the right forest location.
  2. Ideally don’t take your phone. But if you must, put your phone away and turn it off.
  3. Spend over 2 hours within the environment.
  4. Slow down. Walk very slowly listening and watching movement and sounds in the natural surrounds. If you become distracted, come to a complete stop.
  5. Notice things within the environment; mushrooms, stones, flowers. Let the outside into your mind and your senses.
  6. Breath deeply as you walk.
  7. Find a place to sit down for at least 20 minutes within the natural environment and breath in the surrounds, letting go of your stresses and focus on here and now.
  8. Acknowledge the nature around you and thank it for giving back to you.

There are over 1500 official forest therapy guides globally, but they insist they are not the therapist, rather it is using the forest as a therapist.

There are even indiginous guides here in Australia.

I recently went on an unofficial Forest Bathing adventure, where I also learnt about the natural environment.

I was nervous at the idea of three hours in nature, as it seemed like a long time, but once out there, it went so quickly I could have stayed there longer.

I can’t wait to go all the way next time, take some friends, and simply focus on nature.

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Renae Leith-Manos

CONTRIBUTOR

Renae Leith-Manos travels the world writing (www.renaesworld.com.au). She has had a colourful media career as a journalist in many magazines and newspapers, and spends her time writing, consulting to new businesses, running, doing yoga, swimming & cycling.
She's likes healthy eating, but thinks chocolate cake is just as important as kale chips.
She spends most weekends hanging out with her gorgeous twins.

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