Forest bathing is a term created in Japan in the early 1980s as a public health strategy to encourage the Japanese to spend more time in nature.
Forest bathing aims to add balance to our busy lives that have become very much distant from nature.
Based on the millions of years humans have inhabited the Earth, we have only been living in these highly urban settings for 0.01% of this time. Imagine the strain we must be placing on ourselves to push through and adapt to this.
As a part of nature ourselves, the ever-growing separation away from it can very well be regarded as an important factor in many of the illnesses and health conditions we see today.
Stress is a big factor, even for our kids. And it doesn’t have to be the obvious stress such as struggling at school or having troubles with friends. It also includes the pressure we place on them by filling their days with extracurricular activities after school and on weekends.
How can forest bathing or time in nature help?
Spending time in nature, simply soaking in nature’s surroundings and atmosphere, and allowing all of our senses to indulge and discover the natural world around us has many proven benefits- physically and mentally.
1. Mental health benefits of forest bathing
- Reducing stress and improving our ability to handle everyday stress
- Regulating mood and reducing anxiety and depression
- Improving attention, concentration and academic performance at school
- Enhancing immunity
There have been some very interesting studies done with kids comparing the health effects of spending time in nature as opposed to an urban setting activity.
2. Behavioural benefits of forest bathing
Kids with behavioural challenges, including those diagnosed with ADHD, have been shown to benefit from time spent in nature whether it be at the beach, a park or in the bush/ forest. Not only does time in nature have the ability to reduce symptoms of inattention and impulsivity but it can also have beneficial effects on our kids’ gut bug environment; a mechanism which may very well be at the bottom of the improved behavioural aspects.
3. Forest bathing and gut health
If you are new to this concept of gut health, here is a quick overview. The gut is full of microbes, mainly bacteria, that are a part of us. When there is a good balance, these microbes do whole host of things to keep us healthy and happy. When not in balance, space opens up for the unfriendly sort and once these guys set up shop and start making the orders, our kids can start feeling moody, irritable, angry, fatigued, and anxious and they can start developing health issues such as those related to their gut and immunity.
A balanced and diverse gut bug environment is a key marker of health. And spending time in nature by forest bathing is a very important way our kids are able to develop this diversity.
4. Forest bathing and skin health
Diversity also extends beyond the gut to the more obvious interface with the environment; our skin.
Our skin is also home to their own collection of microbes and an interesting study found that more green exposure, such as forest bathing to was able to shape this in a health-promoting way.
Kids who attended a daycare centre in a green environment had beneficial changes in both the gut and skin microbial environment that translated to a more regulated immune system. A well-regulated immune system is important in preventing health challenges related to an over-reactive immune system such as allergies, eczema and asthma.
Is your child suffering from nature-deficit disorder?
Spending time in nature is free, simple and accessible. It doesn’t have to be a trip to the mountains to go for a nature walk, it can be time spent at the beach, at the local park or lake.
Make the conscious decision to set time aside every week to give your child and your family a dose of bathing in nature. Even if it starts off as an hour having a picnic in the park or a swim at the beach. This will help make it sustainable as you grow to adapt to fitting it in to your weekly schedule.
The more time you spend in nature, the quicker you will see the benefits spill over into your daily lives and the more appreciation you will have for its benefits on your whole family’s health and wellbeing.
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