Forest Bathing and Dirt Therapy

Relax


A walk in the forest: a pleasurable activity which too few of us are able to access either quickly or conveniently. Which is too bad.

“Forest bathing,” a Japanese national health program founded in 1982 to get people outside and into nature (and what American philosopher Thoreau preached in his book Walden), has since been validated by science. How exactly does forest bathing benefit your health? Research suggests it reduces stress hormones and boosts the immune system.

Numerous studies have shown a connection between time spent in nature and improvements in cognitive health, including memory, attention, concentration, impulse inhibition, and mood.

The obvious advice, if you live near a forest? Go visit it. Today, tomorrow, and often.

But let’s say you live at least a day’s journey from a forest. That you, like so many city dwellers, can’t fit a regular walk in the woods into your life.

Try gardening. Gardening gets you outside. It gets your hands dirty. Better yet, gardening requires focus, patience, and what philosopher Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi calls “flow,” meaning it’s good for your brain as well. Flow is any activity that is so enjoyable and engrossing, you often forget the passage of time while you’re doing it.

Meanwhile, make a plan to go take a walk in a forest if you can afford it and are able. “We need the tonic of wildness,” said Thoreau. “We can never have enough of nature.”

References

  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Retrieved November 14, 2019, from ResearchGate website: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi/publication/224927532_Flow_The_Psychology_of_Optimal_Experience/links/55ad6c2f08aed614b097b39e.pdf
  • Detweiler, M. B., Sharma, T., Detweiler, J. G., Murphy, P. F., Lane, S., Carman, J., Kim, K. Y. (2012). What is the evidence to support the use of therapeutic gardens for the elderly? Psychiatry Investigation, 9(2), 100–110.doi: 10.4306/pi.2012.9.2.100
  • Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), 9–17. doi: 10.1007/s12199-008-0068-3
  • Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., & Daily, G. C. (2012). The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1249(1), 118-136.
  • Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., & Daily, G. C. (2012). The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1249(1), 118-136.