Tree Babies- The power of forest bathing for parent and baby wellness
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness”- John Muir.
“In the woods, I feel that nothing can befall me….which nature cannot repair”-Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I am in the woods and immersed in nature, I instantly relax. I feel grounded. I feel that I am coming home. I feel the magnificence of the trees. The power of nature. The unity of us all sharing the moment on the planet. I feel gratitude. I feel humbled. I feel love.
There was a study published in 1984 by Robert Ulrich “View through a window may influence recovery after surgery” which showed that patients with green views from their window recovered sooner and were less depressed than those looking at buildings.
So what is forest bathing?
It is a way to connect with nature and the forest through all our sense that enables us to feel present, grounded and to facilitate healing. It allows us to reconnect to who we are in a natural setting.
The term forest bathing comes from the Japanese term, Shinrin-Yoku. This is an ancient practice that honours nature and spirituality. The two main religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shintoism. In Shinto, the spirits are not separate from nature, they are in it.
Shinrin-Yoku, translated into English as ‘forest bathing’, means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. It is a therapy that was developed in Japan during the 1980s, becoming a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have conducted studies on the health benefits of spending time amongst the trees, demonstrating that forest bathing positively creates calming neuropsychological effects through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system.
Every study conducted so far has demonstrated reductions in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness amongst the participants. In fact, after just 15 minutes of forest bathing blood pressure drops, stress levels are reduced and concentration and mental clarity improve.
There are now 44 accredited Shinrin-Yoku forests in Japan, with the research conducted helping to establish Shinrin-Yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.
What are some of the benefits?
Shinrin-yoku can increase human natural killer (NK) activity and the number of NK cells and the intracellular levels of anti-cancer proteins, such as perforin, granzymes and granulysin. The increased NK activity and anti-cancer proteins last for more than 7 days, even up to 30 days. This suggests that if people do shinrin-yoku once a month, they may be able to maintain a higher level of NK activity. This is very important in terms of health promotion and preventive medicine. NK cells are immune cells and play an important role in defence against bacteria, viruses and tumours. People with higher NK activity showed a lower incidence of cancers, whereas people with lower NK activity showed a higher incidence of cancers, indicating the importance of NK cell function on cancer prevention. Therefore, it suggests that forest bathing may have preventive effects again cancers.
Shinrin-yoku can reduce stress hormones, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol and may contribute to stress management.
Shinrin-yoku can reduce blood pressure and heart rate and may have a preventive effect on hypertension.
Shinrin-yoku can increase the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce the activity of sympathetic nerve inhibiting stress responses.
Shinrin-yoku can reduce the symptoms for anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue. This suggests forest bathing has a preventive effect on depression.
Shinrin-yoku can improve sleep quality.
Tree Babies Forest Bathing Practice
Forest Bathing is all about slowing down. There is no destination to get to. It’s about connecting with your senses. Forest bathing is also about the deep appreciation of nature. We are not there to take from the wood or forest. We are there to give our presence and become one with nature.
- Keep your focus on embodiment and sensory experience; don’t over-think it.
- Remember there is nothing to achieve.
- Ideally, walk in nature for a few hours although studies show as little as 15 minutes in nature can have benefits.
- Distance is irrelevant. It’s engaging with nature as you walk.
- Go unplugged, without your phone to distract you.
- Don’t let concepts such as “mindfulness” or “walking meditation” trick you into making efforts to experience anything other than what the forest offers.
- Don’t let the experiences of others or outcomes such as the feelings of awe described in research studies trick you into trying to have those same experiences. Let each walk be its own experience; avoid trying to recreate prior positive experiences.
Forest bathing in its simplest form is being present in nature. To begin a practice;
- Arrive and express gratitude for the moment. take 5 minutes to simply tune into your body and your breath
- Connect with your breath and the present moment
- Connect with your surroundings
- Walk slowly for 15 minutes
- Begin to walk with an awareness of each step and allow your senses to expand
- Notice the smell, the breeze on your face, the sounds of the forest
- Notice the play of light through the canopy
- Make friends with the forest
- Stop and notice the trees. Be with the experience
- Sit Spot-5 minutes
- Surrender and allow yourself to be in the moment
With each breath feel your connection to the trees. Your exhale is their inhale. Their exhale is your inhale. You are connected and you are one.
Gratitude practice to nature and gift something if it feels right
We cover this and more in our Tree Babies Guide course. If you would like to train with us click here.
Tree Babies-Our essential resources list for teaching parents and babies in nature
I thought I would share some of my favourite resources from our Tree Babies Guide course to inspire you.
Our Tree Babies course covers everything you need to know but I always suggest cultivating a daily practice of learning.
You can order some of these books for deeper reading from Red Lion Books to support an amazing family-run independent bookshop. Send an email copying this list or any of the titles and Jo at Red Lion will send them out to you, [email protected]
Continuum Concept-Jean Liedoff
Vital Touch-Sharon Heller
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in
Ten Minutes a Day by Andy Puddicombe
Four Agreements-Don Miguel Ruiz
Untethered Soul-Michael Alan Singer
The New Earth-Eckart Tolle
Forest bathing and nature practice
The Healing Nature Trail: Forest Bathing for Recovery and Awakening Book by Tamarack Song
Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature Book by M. Amos Clifford
Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You Book by Sarah Iven
Other useful resources for Tree Babies classes
Calm app-This is a great way to tie up what you do in sessions with the home practice for parents
Headspace app-This app offers a grounded way to add mindfulness to your day
Insight Timer-A huge range of mediations, mindfulness exercises and much more
To join us as a Tree Babies Guide and join the Tree Babies Revolution, click here
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