There is an old tradition in Japan called Shinrin Yoku, where a person is encouraged to visit a forest to rejuvenate himself. The idea was to tap into his/her natural energies. “There are many names for this energy, such as Prana, Qi/Chi, Ki, Holy Spirit, Life Force, etc,” explains Rebekah Gamble, a Pittsburgh-based holistic practitioner.
What Is Earthing?
While the term forest bathing or earthing is one that has gained popularity commercially only recently, the tradition dates back to ancient Eastern beliefs that humans could gain from the bounty of nature.
There are numerous philosophies about what this force is, where it came from, why it’s here and how to use it properly, but what we know for certain is that all forms have energy and many believe it to be the source of consciousness and vitality, says Gamble. According to her, this energy can be described as “information”. It cannot be measured, but can be transmitted, moved, shared and developed.
Her theory follows the same principle as reiki. Here, a person attempts to relay information to different parts of the body on how to function. Correspondingly, nature too plays a part in aligning the optimal functioning of the body. “There is a fair amount of neurological and hormonal changes that happen just from spending some time in the woods,” she says.
The Relaxing Power Of The Great Outdoors
Gamble isn’t the only one who has felt the relaxing power of the great outdoors. Think about the last time you went camping or trekking. Researchers have proven that escaping the noise and stress of the city to spend some time in nature have positive affirmations on our health. This effect permeates the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of a person. Scientific evidence pegs it on inhaling organic plat chemicals like phytoncides, otherwise known as wood essential oils. They contain antimicrobial compounds that do what a cleanse would attempt to achieve—flush out toxins.
A senior assistant professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo conducted a study in 2007, where he found that forest bathing not only elevates moods and relieves stress levels, it also boosts the immune system. In one study, the Profile of Mood States (POMS) test showed that it also increased the score of vigor in subjects. This means that a simple weekend trip to the cabin in the woods could help secure you against lifestyle-related disorders brought on by stress and burnout.
How To Do It At Home
For those who can’t find tall trees in the vicinity to plan an escape, Christina Shannon, clinical director of naturopathic medicine at the Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Illinois suggests imagining your happy place in the comforts of your home itself. Her program offers integrative solutions to patients. A common method she uses is to suggest that clients curate a meditative journey to a forest. Imagine yourself in the middle of a forest surrounded by the sounds of chirping birds and a babbling brook. The massive trees above create a canopy of green foliage through which the sun shines. “For most of us, simply thinking about a scene like this can calm us down. But actually spending time in nature may have even greater health benefits,” she says.
The next logical step is to bring the forest indoors. Researchers have simulated the forest with forest sounds, smells and sensations with similar results: reducing blood pressure and heart rate, and increasing the body’s relaxation response. So bring plants and the sounds of the forest indoors because adding a little bit of nature to your day may be beneficial, as well. Time spent in nature-known may also improve cognition. Hence, it is a good idea to involve the entire family, kids and all.