by Dr. Alexa Chichak
When it comes to mental health, there’s a huge number of tools naturopathic doctors can use- hydration, breathing techniques, botanicals, nutrient supplementations, prescription medications, the list goes on. We choose which treatments to use based on each patient’s individual needs. One prescription that’s constant in my treatment plans is forest bathing.
Although it sounds risqué, there’s no nudity involved in this kind of bathing. Forest bathing is simply spending time in the forest- walking, running, breathing, meditating, sitting- it all works.
In Japan, forest bathing is called Shin-rinyoku and has been researched in depth as to it’s effects. It has been shown to decrease urinary levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline, and salivary levels of cortisol (a prominent stress hormone). This may be in part due to the upregulation of our parasympathetic nervous system in the forest, which makes us feel relaxed. In regards to symptomatic relief, forest bathing has been shown to decrease feelings of hostility, depression and anxiety, as well as increased sleeping time in insomniac patients.
Forest bathing is not only beneficial for mental health. It has also been shown to decrease blood glucose levels, upregulate immune system function, decrease blood pressure and pulse rate.
As the weather gets colder, we tend to spend more time inside. This winter, consider bundling up and bathing in your local forest.
Dr. Alexa Chichak is a Naturopathic Doctor and offers appointments at Local Health Integrative Clinic Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Click here to book an appointment with Dr. Alexa.
Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 9-17.
Hansen, M. M., Jones, R., & Tocchini, K. (2017). Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and nature therapy: A state-of-the-art review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(8), 851.
Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 18.
Tsunetsugu, Y., Park, B. J., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku”(taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 27-37.