Tense and Stressed? Try “Forest Bathing”

Wouldn’t it be great to discover a free, stress buster that can lower your heart rate, help you concentrate and is easily found?  Look out your window.

Hanging out at a park, garden or amongst many trees is great for your mental wellbeing. “Nature can be beneficial for mental health,” says Irina Wen, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and clinical director of the Steven A. Military Family Clinic at NYU Langone Medical Center. “It reduces cognitive fatigue and stress and can be helpful with depression and anxiety.”

Research has shown that “forest bathing,” the practice of spending time in a forested area in an effort to reap wellness rewards, is remarkably good for you. That may explain why this Japanese trend is catching on stateside.

A 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, for example, found that participants who walked in a forest had lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone) afterwards than those who strolled through a city environment.

Recent research also shows that taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus.” “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.” In fact, Dr. Marc Berman and researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk through an arboretum. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”

Michael Posner, professor emeritus at University of Oregon who studies attention, says that our brains gets fatigued after working for long periods of time, “particularly if we have to concentrate intensely or deal with a repetitive task.”

So, take a short walk in a park or hike in a forest to admire the beautiful fall colors while refreshing your body and your mind.

To learn how Fitness for Health can help you improve your mind-body connection utilizing state-of-the-art fitness technology, visit www.FitnessForHealth.org or call 301-231-7138.