🍂 Happy Habit #8: Forest Bathing (Shirin Yoku)
• 3 min read
• 3 min read
Spending just 30 minutes walking in nature has been shown to be a powerful way to relax and reduce negative emotions . Compared to spending the same amount of time walking in an urban, subjects showed lower physiological stress levels across several key markers: Salivary cortisol, blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability.
Over 56% of the world's population live in cities , but humans evolved in nature. This means that our nervous systems haven't adapted to the high stress urban environment that most of us find ourselves immersed in. If we don't break the pattern of stress in our fast-paced urban lives, our nervous systems can get overloaded—with pretty negative consequences.
Chronic stress is a primary contributing factor in a range of emotional and physical health issues including depression  and systemic inflammation  which may be involved in the development of a variety of illnesses.
One of the easiest ways to interrupt the cycle of stress is to spend time in nature, and lots of research supports this .
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries realized this and started using the research and coined the term 'Forest Bathing' (or Shirin Yoku) as a way to encourage more visitors to it's national parks. Given Japan has the highest suicide rate in the G7 (with cases rising yearly), finding ways to support emotional health is a national priority and lots of research has gone into studying forest bathing and its effects.
Most of the forest bathing studies involve participants spending 15 minutes walking around a forest and 15 minutes 'soaking in' the atmosphere with their senses through simple observation.
In our hyper-distracted world with smartphones in every pocket, spending time in nature can be an incredible relief for anyone feeling overwhelmed by their current environment.
If you want to experiment with forest bathing, try finding the closest park or forest near you. The easier it is to get to, the more likely you will be to visit.
Have fun! I've made a 10-minute video as a of a guided meditation following the above, in case you find it useful.
Do you have a weekly zoom call? I do.
Why not take the call out in nature as much as you can? Use your mobile phone as a personal hotspot if you need your laptop, otherwise just rock up with your phone and enjoy the sights and sounds of birds and trees.
I've got a beautiful park called The Plantation Gardens thats a six minute walk away from my office in Norwich. I jog there every Wednesday for my weekly Happy Startup 2020 Vision call at 2pm. It's a lot of fun!
If you're ever feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, give yourself a break and walk around in nature. It doesn't have to be a forest. Just getting into nature and absorbing the sights and sounds can be a welcome release.
As always, have fun, be kind to yourself and let me know of this week's happy habit!
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