A tree bath, or forest bath, reduces the level of stress. It improves health by reducing blood pressure and heart rate, while strenghtening the immune system. This connexion with nature calms us and helps to put things in perspective, allowing us to revitalise ourselves. It is clearly better than being connected with our phones, and screens.
What is it ?
The tree bath is a practice that comes from Japan. It is recognised as a measure of health prevention. It is the “Shinrin-Yoku”, or forest bathing. It simply consists in getting close to nature and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the forest. To do so, all you need is to walk around a forest, or a parc, far from the noise of the city and cars. This walk, in quiet and silence, will draw on the five senses.
First of all, it is important to breathe deeply, through the mouth and the nose, to fill one’s lungs of the smells of the woods. There, the air is purer thanks to photosynthesis. This peaceful walk allows one to listen to the noises of nature, but also its silences : the singing of birds, the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves, or the rustle of small animals sneaking in and out of the weeds. Pauses are necessary to be able to contemplate the forest. One has to take the time to marvel at the beauty of nature, and touch prudently the trunks and leaves.
This is what Peter Wohlleben, a park ranger, explains in his best seller The Hidden Life of Trees.
Trees filter polluting substances, dust and pollen, and trap airborne particles. They also produce phytoncides. These are molecules we breathe in that have a positive effect on our bodies. Each species has particular characteristics. Conifer-tree-forests are invigorating, while deciduous-tree-forests are soothing. It is necessary to stay close to trees for at least 45 minutes, and if possible to have long walks of about 2 hours. The more time spent within nature, the better we benefit from its positive effects on our health.
Aditionally, scientific studies were carried out from the 90’s on. They showed that after a walk in the forest, blood pressure decreases, depression and tiredness are eased, the sugar level in the blood diminishes and the quality of sleep improves. But be careful not to touch all trees. In fact, they can shelter allergen substances provoking rashes, as well as insects, whose bites would deprive us from tranquility.
Firstly, the bark of oak trees and hornbeams can be covered with a moss causing itching. Then, pine trees can host the formidable processionary caterpillar, equipped with urticating hairs. Consequently, in France it is necessary to be careful with pine trees mostly, and opt for tree bath in autumn/winter when there are less insects.
Without further delay
In Denmark, some preschools organise classes in the forest. The children happily participate, whatever the weather or the season. They even take naps in a shed ! It was proved that children who go to class in the forest are more resistant to diseases, more focused and less stressed. In-nature schools developped in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. In France, the idea is just emerging.
Don’t hesitate and plan your trips to the forest, or a parc, if possible every week, or at least once a month. Each season brings its share of benefits. Don’t forget to turn off your phones, and enter the wonderful world of the forest.
Nature is waiting for you!