Forest Bathing to Counteract the Winter Blues


Forest Bathing to Counteract the Winter Blues

It’s the new year. Some people have started their resolutions. By February, most of the resolutions will fade to memories. Resolutions are hard to achieve in the dead of winter when we want the comforts of carbs, blankets, and hot chocolate. So start small. I like to walk, preferably outdoors.

Sometimes a breath of fresh air is good for us, even if we don’t quite feel like walking; that’s where forest bathing can help. It’s basically breathing in fresh air.

At times, life seems so difficult. The daily grudge can become…well…a daily grind. There’s taking care of children, cleaning the house, not to mention the endless load of laundry. As a mom, I question myself daily and wonder how I got to this point. Life has zoomed by since the birth of my children, my dad continues to battle cancer, and the world seems to be spinning out of control. Like most people, especially most moms, I feel overwhelmed. The anxiety and the sadness hit me, causing irritability, tight muscles, swirling thoughts. Most of the time I carry on like an icicle thickening and building up protective layers in the cold. But, when anxiety thaws those many layers, that’s when I break.

It’s those times when going outside for some fresh air is essential.

Recently, I read about forest bathing. Don’t you love the sound of that? It’s not actual bathing, rather experiencing the outdoors using all your senses. As we’re stuck in the middle of winter, it’s rather difficult to go walking. So that’s the beauty of forest bathing. Just step outside and breathe in fresh air. In your yard, watch the wildlife scurrying around, birds stopping by a branch, or a squirrel climbing a tree. The other afternoon, I watched a cardinal sing to his love. It made me laugh. I guess it was happy hour for the birds.

Beginning in Japan, a country with one of the highest life expectancy rates, forest bathing has only recently caught on in popularity in the United States. There are actual scientific studies which prove the health benefits. The forest leaves, underbrush, and bark, release terpenes which seep into your skin and flow into your lungs. According to various studies, these terpenes have anti-inflammatory properties and can help lower stress. Basically, it can’t hurt to try a little forest bathing.

If you’re ready to brave the cold and still want to take on your healthy new year resolution, you could just try forest bathing. But, for those wanting actual exercise, bundle up and find an easy trail. The sunshine and the fresh air, whether it’s cold or cool, seeps into your skin, into your bloodstream, into your brain providing the same health benefits as forest bathing. I was walking recently and another friend popped out of her car. It’s fun to have a walking buddy and sometimes proves just as therapeutic. But, it’s not necessary for forest bathing.

If you’re ready to move on to running, I recommend C25K couch potato application. A few months ago, I noticed a friend looked refreshed. With two kids and a full time job, how was that possible? She started using this application which builds over a period of eight weeks. You may be inspired to try a 5K race but it’s not a requirement. It’s just some motivation to get outside.

New Year’s resolutions too daunting? Life itself overwhelming you? Try walking. Lace up your shoes and go outside, even for twenty minutes. Clear your mind. That’s forest bathing.