Right now, while Mom is typing what I say, I’m lying close by all snuggled in my blankie. We also have the smell of trees drifting through our house. Mmmmm. As soon as she’s done typing we get to go for a walkie and smell lots of trees. Yay! Type faster, Mom!

So, have you ever heard of something called “Forest Bathing?” No, for real. I didn’t make that up. In Japan they call it Shinrin-yoku, which literally means “forest bathing.” It’s where you go for a walk in the forest and enjoy with wonderful pine tree smells and it makes you healthier, happier, and sleep better. It’s not a walk where you rush, but slow down and enjoy the beauty and smells.

The people of Japan are lucky because they have a LOT of forests there (67% of the land!) and it is a recognized form of stress management.    ( Doctors even prescribe it!).  Here are some pictures of me forest bathing. 

(this one was before I started turning white…)Behr walking in forest framed

Here’s me stopping to enjoy the whole forest, not just the smells on the ground. That was HARD for me to learn at first. 🙂

Behr on Forest Trail- Oregon

Here I am standing in the forest and gazing at the peaceful lake. Kind of a forest meditation…

Behr by lake - BB

Ok, so I got distracted with the size of THIS tree. Well, that and the squirrel that ran up it..

Behr in Redwoods

Even the trees themselves seem happier in the forest. I feel sorry for the poor trees that live in the city. They should move to the forest. Really. Maybe we should too 🙂

Happy Tree

Wow, all of this forest bathing really IS making me sleepy…

Behr - Tired on hike

By the way, I know some of you live where it’s snowing right now. That’s ok. You can put a tree in your house like Mom does this time of year, and then go for walks when it’s not snowing. 

May the FOREST be with you 🙂

♥♥ Behr Behr, the Forest Princess

Behr Behr’s mom here.

What an wonderful concept! The Forest Agency of Japan has created acres and acres of beautiful forests for the people to go to in order to “de-stress” and get healthier. It may sound funny to post this in the winter, but winter is when a lot of people feel “down”, so it just might be helpful to consider. I have to wonder if that’s why many people feel so wonderful in the fall and spring, when the weather makes outdoor activities more inviting. (not too hot, not too cold) When there ARE decent days, though, this could be a good thing.

Meanwhile, breathing essential oils of balsam fir (or maybe pine) in an essential oil diffuser could bring cheer, or even looking out of the window at trees if that’s all you have. One time when I had a really painful surgery (out of the MANY I’ve had…), I found that just watching videos of nature helped calm me and reduce my pain levels some.

I actually like to blend essential oils of Balsam Fir mixed with Orange oil for a particularly uplifting blend. Orange oil (or Bergamot even)  has been shown to reduce depression and stress. Of course, having a real Christmas tree or wreath are helpful if you celebrate the holidays with those. Studies have even shown that hospital patients with trees to look at outside of their rooms have faster healing times.

Here’s a great website with more information about what forest bathing is: http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/. 

Australia has created the “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” program (http://www.hphpcentral.com/) modeled after Japan’s Shinrin-yoku, and it is s.l.o.w.l.y starting to catch on here in the U.S.A. as well. Emphasis on the word slowly.

So, being the major scientific research fanatic that I am, I have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of evidence that exists to support the concept of forest therapy building our health.

For example, breathing the oils (called phytoncides) from the coniferous trees (tree that have cones, like pines) has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. These same oils increase your natural killer cells that help prevent tumors. The tree oils basically build your immune system. Important to keep up, even in winter. We just have to bundle up and convince ourselves to go outside on decent days in the winter 🙂 

It’s recommended to spend at least 20 minutes in the forest, and if you spend 2-3 days there (vacation anyone??) the effects on your immune system can last up to 30 days afterward. Wow! Even just 20 minutes can reduce cortisol (stress hormones) by 13%, however.

Forest bathing also increases your creativity and problem solving capability. Many famous authors and inventors did their creative thinking on walks. 

If you are so inclined, you can learn more basic information on these websites:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/,

https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/about/science,

http://molpharm.aspetjournals.org/content/90/5/530,

http://www.hphpcentral.com/article/forest-bathing.

Ok, I’m going to bundle up and brave the cold, dreary, windy weather to take Behr for a walk now. Both of us need help with our immune systems, so that’s my motivation for the moment. Brrr.