Nature Immersion: Forest Bathing in Your Backyard


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Forest bathing is a mindful practice designed to bring awareness of one's natural surroundings through scent, sound, touch and taste.

Participants' nature connectedness (Connectedness to Nature Scale), environmental identity (EID short form), mood, and heart rate were assessed both before and after nature immersion, along with demographic data and general health practices.

Instead of a rushed morning

Instead of rushing out the door for work or school, try taking your time getting dressed before spending several hours outdoors - either seated, walking or running in your garden or nearby green space - which will allow your body to absorb natural scents such as plants, sun and wind while helping reduce stress. Don't forget to switch your phone off or at least put it into airplane mode before beginning this adventure.

Forest bathing is a mindfulness practice designed to bring the outdoors in. Adults can practice it alone or join a guided meditation class or yoga session together for maximum enjoyment of this experience. Children too can reap many rewards by spending time outside in nature while being mindful and appreciating its beauty, using all five senses to fully experience what nature has to offer them. Shinrin-yoku practiced alongside your kids can teach them how to slow down, relax and take some time for themselves - perfect if you're teaching your little ones how!

Recent research examined the effects of forest bathing on participant emotions, with results revealing a substantial rise in positive affect after only two hours of nature immersion sessions. Researchers collected heart rate data via TomTom wristwatches worn by participants as well as coded questionnaires with unique identifiers that included questions from Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS), Environmental Identity Scale short form (EID), Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS), Good Health Practices and Good Health Practice (GHP).

Results demonstrated that both guided and unguided nature immersion experiences led to increases in positive affect, though guided nature immersions led to larger increases than unguided ones. There was also an interaction between time and condition; guided nature immersions showed more increase than unguided ones in positive affect increases.

If you want a more sensorial nature experience, try participating in a forest bathing walk or meditation class led by an expert guide. These experiences allow for deep engagement with your environment as they encourage slowing down and using all senses--including smell--to connect with what lies around you. As part of a hiking group, sharing observations may prompt new ideas or spark discoveries--for example a tree that smells of cinnamon!

Spend a few minutes in your garden or a nearby green space

Just a few minutes spent outdoors is good for you - whether weeding, planting, or simply admiring your work in any green space can provide numerous health and mental well-being benefits. Gardening stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system to help calm you and improve mood; one study revealed this fact when hospital staff spent daily time outdoors to reduce their stress levels and increase job satisfaction. Another research project conducted by Ulrich found middle-aged and older adults staying in rooms overlooking natural landscapes were less stressed after surgery, had shorter stays in hospital beds as well as less use of potent analgesics than those staying in rooms overlooking building walls.

The research team conducted tests to measure participants' heart rates and mood before and after nature immersion experiences, using measures such as the Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS), Environmental Identity Scale short form (EID), Positive and Negative Affects Scale (PANAS), as well as GHP scale and three open-ended questions during pre-test administration and GHP scale and three open-ended questions during post-test administration.

Secondary analysis demonstrated that participants' nature connectedness was equal across both conditions before engaging in nature immersion experiences; however, guided nature immersion sessions led to greater improvements in CNS scores than unguided ones. Therefore, researchers suggest future studies benefit from randomizing participants into one condition or the other as well as increasing the duration and depth of guided nature immersion sessions to heighten the magnitude of positive effects observed. They further recommend asking open-ended questions to garner additional insight from participants.

Find a quiet spot

Forest bathing provides the opportunity to unwind and appreciate nature without needing to travel far; even just sitting quietly in your own house or backyard can work wonders for relaxation and decompressing from electronics, which can be difficult in today's fast-paced society. Forest bathing gives us this chance, giving us time to appreciate nature without leaving home or office!

Li, who serves as president of the Society for Forest Medicine in Japan and author of Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing -- asserts that forest bathing should not be seen as a means of treating illness but instead be seen as preventive treatment; health professionals therefore increasingly recommend spending time in nature as part of a practice known as nature prescribing.

Forest bathing aims to immerse oneself in nature and connect with it, in order to relax both body and mind. This can be accomplished by either walking on lightly wooded trails, or sitting still to absorb scents from trees, plants, water bodies, or air. Or by engaging in simple activities such as listening to birds singing in the trees overhead or gazing upon clouds passing overhead and appreciating any sensory details in your surroundings.

Some people turn to nature for mental or emotional well-being; for others, it provides physical benefits. Studies have demonstrated how spending time in nature can boost immunity by increasing natural killer cell counts in your body. For optimal forest bathing experiences, find an area surrounded by dense foliage - away from roads or buildings and free from distractions such as roads.

Ideal conditions should include cool and shaded environments with minimal wind or sun exposure and limited mosquito populations. Also, bring along all-natural bug spray for added protection, and bring along a journal or notebook so that you can record your thoughts and emotions as you explore your surroundings.

Forest bathing can help strengthen both your immune system and alleviate chronic stress and anxiety, fatigue, aches and pains, depression, low self-esteem, and lack of energy. Forest bathing also facilitates an intimate connection with nature that has been linked to pro-environmental attitudes among children.

Enjoy the natural elements around you

Bring nature into your everyday life when you can't get outside by incorporating decorative green spaces and small terrariums into the decor of both home and work, along with soft blues and greens to bring an air of calm into any space. Additionally, listening to natural sounds like birds chirping or waves crashing can bring nature alive for you!

To assess participants' nature connectedness, environmental identity, and mood, they completed a pre-test that consisted of items from the Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS), Environmental Identity Scale Short Form (EID), and Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS). Three open-ended questions were also included within this research project and their heart rates were tracked continuously via wristwatch throughout a 2-h nature immersion experience; demographic data as well as general health practice information was also gathered during this research study.

Participants were randomly assigned either a guided or unguided nature immersion experience. A trained forest therapy guide led the guided experience, following an established forest bathing protocol found around the world. Unguided sessions allowed individuals to self-direct, with researchers encouraging participants to explore their gardens slowly while taking note of sights, sounds, and smells surrounding them.

As a control measure, an unguided condition was compared with its guided counterpart and compared using a one-way between-groups analysis of variance to identify whether they differed significantly; no significant variances were detected between these treatment groups.

The authors accounted for the lack of differences in baseline CNS and EID scores between groups by noting that participants had limited prior nature immersion experiences, which may explain why the guided condition wasn't significantly more effective than its unguided counterpart. They did find, however, that guided nature immersion resulted in greater nature connection increases and lower average heart rates at the conclusion of each experience compared with unguided immersion; these results support their hypothesis that nature immersion leads to increased environmental identity and mood while at the same time offering guidance as an incentive to encourage regular participation in nature-related activities.

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