Finding it hard to balance your work life and your personal life? Feeling overwhelmed like you just don’t have peace of mind or enough time to yourself? You might be experiencing stress – and a lot of it. Interestingly, researchers have found spending time in nature (aka “forest bathing”) may be your next prescription for reducing your stress levels.
Before we talk about forest bathing, let’s talk about stress.
Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress may cause you more headaches, more aches and pains, frequent sickness, decreased energy levels, insomnia, loss of libido, appetite changes, digestive issues, or increased heart rate.
If you’re wondering what stress actually is inside the body, it manifests through the hormone called cortisol, most famous for its role in our “fight or flight” response. When you experience a perceived threat, or stress on your being, your brain (specifically the hypothalamus) sets of an alarm triggering the release of the hormone cortisol. If all things work smoothly, once the threat has passed your cortisol levels return to normal. But, sometimes with work and life stressing you everyday, the alarm bell doesn’t gets turned off and your cortisol levels don’t drop.
How can forest bathing benefit you
Forest bathing may be a good way to deal with any symptoms of stress you may be feeling. Originally born from an ancient Japanese tradition, forest bathing is the act of spending an extended period of time outside with trees. While it is now part of our pop culture, its underpinnings are more than just a fad.
Researchers in Italy recently found forest bathing has been shown to help reduce stress levels, specifically the naturally occurring hormone cortisol. These researchers found that walking, resting, or even just looking at a forest was a helpful anti-stress practice.
But, if you don’t live near a forest, don’t despair. Further studies on the effects of nature on our mental wellness suggest that it’s not only being in the forest that reduces stress but simply the act of spending time outdoors in any capacity. So, going to any green and open space, whether it’s a park or a field or even a desert-scape, can lower perceived stress levels and make you feel better.
How much time outdoors is enough to show positive effects? Researchers suggest that two hours throughout the course of a week is the right number.
If you live in LA, there are lots of ways you can spend time in nature. You can forest bathe by going on one of the many hikes around the city or you can spend an afternoon in your local park or at the beach. These aren’t just fun activities anymore — they are also ways to increase your mental wellbeing.
Newman, Tim. “Can ‘Forest Bathing’ Reduce Stress Levels?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 30 Apr. 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/.
Roe, J. J., Thompson, C. W., Aspinall, P. A., Brewer, M. J., Duff, E. I., Miller, D., … Clow, A. (2013). Green space and stress: evidence from cortisol measures in deprived urban communities. International journal of environmental research and public health, 10(9), 4086–4103. doi:10.3390/ijerph10094086
Sheikh, Knvul. “How Much Nature Is Enough? 120 Minutes a Week, Doctors Say.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 June 2019, www.nytimes.com/.