How forest bathing can help you deal with pandemic stress

A lot of the stress of the pandemic is in your head, and forest bathing can help you escape that.

‘Get out of your mind, because that is where the worry is’

Forest bathing can lower your blood pressure, improve digestion and generally improve mood. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

A lot of the stress of the pandemic is in your head, and forest bathing can help you escape that.

And the best part, certified forest therapy guide Julietta Sorensen Kass told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier, is you don't even need a forest to do it.

"Many of us can't go there, and it's not necessary, because as long as you're engaging with green living things you're going to get a benefit," said Kass.

"It doesn't even have to be a natural space. You can experience healing and a lot of the positive responses subconsciously by spending time with a little jade plant in your office."

The ideas behind forest therapy are based on the Japanese practice of shinrin'yoku, which was developed by the Japanese government when it found the health of its people declining when they moved out of farm fields and into factories. The essential part, said Kass, is to get out of your head and use your senses to experience the moment you are living in right now.

Julietta Sorenson Kass suggests trying to engage all your senses, including your sense of smell. (Submitted by Julietta Sorenson Kass)

"This is a little bit different than meditation, where it's internal," she said.

"What you want to do when you're forest bathing or doing forest therapy is get out of your mind, because that is where the worry is, that's where the stress, where the fear is."

The fear and stress of the pandemic is particularly problematic, she said, because fear prompts a flight or fight response in people. But there is nothing to fight, and nowhere to run.

The purpose of forest therapy is to take time to escape your thoughts.

"Try to find things that you can connect with physically. Touch bark, touch the moss, feel the air on your skin, look for different scents that might be interesting. Listen, how far away can you hear things?" said Kass.

When you sit quietly, how far away can you hear things? (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

"You're trying to engage with your physical senses to help ground you in the present, rather than focusing on your thoughts where a lot of the issues are."

Research has found that forest therapy can lower blood pressure, improve digestion and generally improve your mood.

Kass recommends taking just 10 minutes to connect with living things around you, whether that is in a forest, on a beach or with a house plant.

And if you find it hard to focus for 10 minutes, that's a sign you really need it. But don't worry, she said. It will get easier with practice.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning


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