A Simple Ritual to Beat Anxiety and Stress
Sit back, close your eyes and breath. Imagine a trees canopied high above your head, the sound of birds chirping. Imagine the crunch of leaves beneath your feet, and the impression your boots make upon the moss covered soil. Mushrooms and wild flowers join in your journey through the enchanted land. Animals scurry in their natural habitat to forage for food to feed their young. The sun peaks through the gaps in of the mighty oaks trees to warm your face and nourish all beneath the sky. You are one with the earth, whole, beautiful, and loved.
Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese name for forest bathing, is the act of spending hours in the forest using only your five senses, and it can improve your overall well-being. The man who coined this word was Tomohid Akiyama. After spending his life in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, in his 30s he was burnt out, depressed and sick. He found solace in the forest and soon inspired scientists at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo to study Shinrin-yoku. The scientists compared brain activity from a person in an urban setting to that same person in a forest environment. What they found was that this forest bathing brought the body into a state of rest and relaxation as well as calming brain activity. Another interesting find was that subjects where exposed to antimicrobial compounds released by the plants in the forest. Those committed to forest bathing for two to four hours for two consecutive days increased white blood cell activity (immunity boost) by 40 percent. A follow-up study confirmed that there was a 15% sustained change for the entirety of the month.
After these initial studies there has been numerous more on the effects of forest bathing on depression, anxiety, and adrenal fatigue. People who partook in forest bathing showed a 60% decrease in symptoms as opposed to control groups who relied on antidepressant medication alone.
In a age ruled by technology and careers that have us cooped up in front of a computer all day, followed by relaxing in front of a television before bed, while scrolling through instagram on our phones, its no wonder depression, anxiety and the like are so prevalent. We are often stuck in an artificial world, fed lies that we must consume and know everything in the popular culture. We evolved to be in a symbiotic relationship with the earth, and she still holds the cure for all our ills if only we open up and listen. She is the only cure for the epidemic of Nature Deficit Disorder.
I am not saying that technology is all bad. In fact it is what allows me to send these messages to you. However, like everything in life, we must choose to use it mindfully, have self discipline to know when it is effecting us in a negative manner. We must connect face to face with others, use our hands and bodies to create art and finally to partake in symbiotic relationship with nature.
Experiment: When you have a free evening bike, or drive to the nearest forest or state park. Leave your cell phone in the car or at home because even having it in your pocket can cause stress as you will subconsciously be thinking if people are trying to get a hold of you or if the world has shifted in some major way (guess what? Its highly unlikely). Spend time wandering, meditation on the nature that surrounds you. Notice the way bark lays on a tree, the dance of leaves on the wind. Notice the smells, notice yourself and how you feel. Listen to your heart beat, feel the expansion and contraction of your lungs. Give gratitude, because you are abundant!