The Benefits of Forest Bathing

Sep 14, 2023

I don’t need proof that nature is awesome. I always feel better when I’m connecting with the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space. I LOVE to be in nature. Maybe you do too.

There are many benefits to getting outside. In Japan, doctors prescribe time in forested areas. It’s called “Shinrin-yoku”, or forest bathing. They’ve done a lot of research on the benefits which include:

  1. Stress Reduction: Spending time in nature, especially in forests, has been shown to reduce stress levels and lower cortisol (stress hormone) production. The tranquil and serene environment of the forest helps you relax and unwind, which can have a positive impact on mental health.

  2. Improved Immune Function: Some studies have suggested that spending time in forests can boost the activity of natural killer cells (also known as lymphocytes) and enhance the immune system's response to infections and diseases.

  3. Lower Blood Pressure: Forest bathing has been linked to decreased blood pressure levels, potentially reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

  4. Increased Physical Activity: Forest environments often encourage physical activity, such as walking or hiking, which can improve cardiovascular health and overall fitness.

  5. Improved Mood and Mental Health: Being in nature and experiencing the beauty of the forest can elevate mood, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and enhance overall mental well-being.

  6. Enhanced Creativity and Cognitive Function: Spending time in natural settings has been associated with increased creativity and improved cognitive function.

  7. Mindfulness and Present-Moment Awareness: Forest bathing promotes mindfulness and the practice of being fully present in the moment, which can be beneficial for managing stress and anxiety.

  8. Respiratory Benefits: Breathing in the phytoncides, natural compounds emitted by trees, may have positive effects on the respiratory system.

  9. Social Interaction and Connection: Forest bathing can be a social activity, encouraging people to connect with others and strengthen social bonds, which can be beneficial for mental health.

Humans and plants evolved together. We have a lot in common. The phytoncides (aromatic compounds) plants in nature emit are what makes flowers, trees and fruit smell so good. These compounds are like medicine. In fact, medicine comes from plants. Modern medicine takes parts of these compounds and makes synthetic replications in the lab. For all time before this was possible, people used plants for medicine. This is probably one reason doctors prescribe forest bathing. Here’s another fun fact:

Your lungs are shaped like trees, upside down.


Trees exhale oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide. We breathe oxygen in and breathe carbon dioxide out. It’s a perfect pair. We literally cannot live without trees. Thank you trees! Trees are our breathing buddies. This is one reason why being in a forest feels so good. Next time you pass a tree, take a deep breath in and a long breath out. The tree will thank you.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.

~Mary Oliver

This is a great time of year to enjoy nature – hiking, biking, camping. Get on or in the water. Go to the park and play!

Go outside. Put your bare feet on the ground. Notice the connection you have to the earth. Let the earth help you feel grounded. You benefit from microbes and negative ions in the dirt.

Do it daily, even if it’s raining. One of the best walks I ever experienced was a 3-hour walk in a steady downpour through the cloud forest in Costa Rica.

If this resonates with you, there’s a whole chapter on how nature can help you feel more awesome in Anxious to Awesome: A Practical Guide for the Whole Family.


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