Your Calm

Bathing in the forest: A cure for anxiety, depression and tension

We were not born to live constantly in the midst of concrete and traffic.

We are dominated by instincts, a reminder of a primordial essence, which often tries to take over our rationality, suddenly infiltrating the repeated gestures of our daily routine.

In recent years, this internal and uncontrolled push has often been given a negative connotation, given that this word has often been associated, in the world of information, with news items.

However, this is not such a correct view. Instincts play a fundamental role in human life, they are essential for our very survival.

Many of these are the very essence of human life, allowing it to continue and evolve.

Let us think of the instinct of life, which is the innate need to create, maintain and obtain joy and pleasure, the main source of creative and positive energy in man.

Instincts are also responsible for the sensations experienced during a journey totally immersed in nature, among the scents, colors and sounds of unspoiled nature. Perceptions that are common to all those who find themselves spending time, for example, in a forest.

Our senses are strengthened because they receive new and unprecedented stimuli, especially for a civilization accustomed to spending most of its time in an urban or domestic environment.

It is the effect of relaxation, peace and balance that you feel when you listen to the sound of the wind between the trees, when you smell the scent of leaves wet by rain or touch the tips of the trees.

The atmosphere of the forest in autumn is ideal for Shinrin yoku

This happens because nature succeeds in making the ropes of our primordial instincts resound, awakening the deep bond between man and nature.

This also explains the feeling that each of us felt once back from a mountain hike, which translates into the physical need to do it again, to walk again in nature.

Some people talk about addiction, but it is actually a strong call, which relies on our most primordial IO.

There are some cultures that are particularly attentive to the link between man and his origins that, despite progress, have been able to preserve intact the memory and the value of some traditions that are beneficial for the body and the spirit of man.

We are talking about Japan, one of the most advanced nations in terms of technology and scientific research, where ancient traditions retain their value intact even in contemporary life and culture.

Some of these traditions have been studied and deepened by science, becoming real instruments of medical care. As in the case of the practice of Shinrin-yoku.

But what is Shinrin-yoku?

Do you remember what we said a few lines above about the experience of man in nature? That’s what it’s all about!

It is not easy to translate this term, it is part of those concepts of the Japanese language that have a unique meaning, to make the idea you could use “bath in the forest” or use the concept of “receive benefits from the atmosphere of the forest”.

In practice, this therapy theorizes precisely the positive effects deriving from a complete immersion in a forest or in a forest. A contact with these environments, however, which must be active and free of distractions.

It is important to spend a day completely immersed in the green, focusing on the sounds of nature, its scents, looking for contact with trees and plants, so as to allow all our senses to refine their perceptions.

Living the sounds and colours of the forest

Living the sounds and colors of the forest are the essence of Bathing in the Forest, practiced by the Japanese

We know that walking in nature brings great benefits to the body and mind. Every hiking and trekking enthusiast has experienced on his skin the well-being that a day in the woods can bring.

Scientific research has also shown the positive effects of a lifestyle focused on the constant path for the heart, diabetes, respiratory system and anxious and depressive syndromes.

But in Japan something more has been done, the Shinrin-yoku in fact has been the subject of a real initiative of health and social policy by the Government, which over the years has encouraged and promoted the practice of “forest bath”, urging citizens to devote themselves to this practice more frequently, trying to make this activity a widespread use in the population.

Even doctors often find themselves prescribing Shinrin-yoku to their patients, the use of this prescription is in fact particularly frequent in a population, such as Japan, characterized by very high work rates and urban centers very populous and chaotic.

But what are the benefits of Shirin-yoku?

Bathing in the forest, if done with a certain regularity, can bring great benefits to the entire immune function. In fact, a trekking or an excursion in a forest corresponds to a natural practice of aromatherapy and sensory stimulation.

Several scientific studies have shown how this practice can drastically reduce anxiety, depression and anger, directly influencing the triggers of these diseases.

In recent years, medicine has managed to demonstrate the chemical and biological mechanisms that are the protagonists of the therapeutic and curative effects of bathing in the forest, these studies have led to the conclusion that well-being is due to the essential oils, phytoncides, that plants release in a natural way.

These fragrances and fragrances, especially those emanating from conifers, known as “woody essential oils”, reduce the risk of psychosocial problems related to stress.

In fact, the resins that trees produce in their natural environment, the woods, are mostly made up of terpenes. These are lipid molecules that are the protagonists of many traditional herbal remedies.

Complex natural environments, such as forests, constitute an incredible basin of varieties of terpenes, which according to their peculiar structure and aroma, have very different positive functions on our body.

A day’s walk in a mountain or wooded environment allows us to come into contact with many varieties of these natural substances.

One of their strengths is, in fact, the great bioavailability, which allows us to absorb them through breathing, ingestion and through skin contact.

The combined action of these varieties of terpenes acts on blood pressure, on the reduction of stress, as well as on the mechanism of anxiety and depression, with a relaxing and calming effect.

That’s why Shinrin-yoku is prescribed, not only to act on anxious and depressive states, but also in recovery from surgery or illness, in improving sleep and for increasing the level of energy.

Not only that, it would also seem able to intervene on one of the “great enemies” of young people today, victims of stress and hectic life, namely ADHD, the syndrome of hyperactivity and the inability to concentrate.

Researcher Jose Antonio Correia, professor of Environmental Psychology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, explains that:

“With the advent of modern society, cities have begun to represent a security against the possible aggression of nature. Now we know that this attitude is wrong and that we can even talk about nature’s deficit disorders: increased obesity, respiratory diseases, vitamin D deficiency, stress…

The city offers us protection and comfort, but our nervous system has not fully adapted to the urban environment and therefore feels the lack of stimulation from the natural environment that has allowed the survival of our species.

According to the researcher, we suffer from a kind of illiteracy about nature and we should start living in the green again to feel better.

In short, we should take our cue from Japan and try to spend more time walking in a park or in a forest. We can let ourselves be enchanted by the wonders of nature and recover our ancestral memory and our primary instincts.

Of course, it is not always easy to reach a forest or a forest in which to walk but, as Correia himself pointed out, we can always adopt an alternative solution by taking a walk in a city park, these environments can also have a therapeutic action, because the natural elements typical of large forests can also be found, proportionally, in a green area of the city.

We conclude with a quote from the philosopher Henry David Thoreau:

“I went into the woods because I wanted to live wisely, to face only the essential facts of life, and to see if I was not able to learn what it had to teach me, and not to discover, at the point of death, that I had not lived. I did not want to live what was not a life, unless it was absolutely necessary. I wanted to live deeply, and suck all the marrow out of it,” wrote Thoreau in Walden.