Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

In Japan, Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing is a program that encourages people to get out into nature, to bathe the mind and body in greenspace. More broadly, forest bathing is defined as “taking in, in all of our senses, the forest atmosphere.”

The term forest bathing was created in 1982 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (1). 

Forest bathing refers to a healing technique that restores the physical and psychological health of the human body through a “five senses experience” of vision, smell, hearing, touch, and taste when the body is exposed to a forest environment (1).

Numerous studies have confirmed that spending time within a forest setting "forest bathing" can reduce psychological stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms and hostility, while at the same time improving sleep and increasing both vigor and feelings of liveliness (1-7). 

Forest bathing, also called nature therapy has many benefits for your health.

How do you get nature therapy when you're stuck inside?

There are many ways to get nature therapy when you're stuck inside:

  1. Bring nature to you - indoor plants and flowers.
  2. Look at pictures and videos of nature.
  3. Listen to nature sounds and music.
  4. Smell nature - try essential oils.
  5. Eat nature - fruits and vegetables.

 Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

1. Bring nature to you - indoor plants and flowers

Having live plants and flowers in your home and office is beneficial for your health.

Even just having a plant in your room may improve your mood. For instance, patients in a hospital room with indoor plants reported less stress than those in the control condition (8-10).

Decorating offices with plants has also been shown to decrease fatigue (11).

These effects may in part be caused by the plants removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air (12).

VOCs are emitted from materials such as carpets, wallpaper, office chairs, and electronic equipment, with highest emissions from new products. Several ornamental potted plant species have the ability to absorb VOCs from indoor air (13).

Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

Interacting with nature also helps you focus and brings you into the present moment.

When you look at a plant or smell an aromatic flower, your mind is drawn into the pleasant experience.

When your thoughts focus on nature, your mind is no longer filled with the chattering in your head - no more worrying about the past or anticipating the future.

For a few moments, your thoughts are clear.

You feel calm.

Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

2. Look at pictures and videos of nature

Looking at pictures and videos of nature can help lower blood pressure and relieve anxiety (10, 14-16). Keep in mind that this can be very individual- you may find images of oceans and water very calming, or you may respond better to images of trees and forests. 

Choose images that are meaningful and beautiful to you. 

Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

3. Listen to nature sounds and music

Listen to nature sounds and music.

Listening to pleasant nature sounds can help lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety and reduce agitation levels (17-19).

Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

4. Smell nature - try essential oils

Aromatherapy is a simple, effective and enjoyable method of stress relief.

Terpenes are small active compounds you can smell. Examples include alpha-pinene from pine trees, linalool from lavender and limonene in citrus rind. Terpenes can enter into your body as you inhale them (20-21). Terpenes have many health benefits and smelling them can help enhance calmness and improve mood (22). 

Lavender essential oil has a rich floral scent, which can improve states of calm and relaxation (23-28). Smelling lavender has been shown to significantly decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce levels of stress hormones, including cortisol (25). The aroma of lavender has also been shown to increase the power of theta (4-8 Hz) and alpha (8-13 Hz) brain activities, which correspond with a state of deep relaxation (26).

Sweet orange essential oil has a fresh, sweet and citrusy scent and smelling sweet orange can reduce anxiety, improve mood and increase calmness (28-30).

Learn more: Benefits of Wild Orange Essential Oil for Skincare

Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

5. Eat nature - fruits and vegetables

There is evidence that higher dietary intake of fruits and vegetables is related to better mental health.

The most prominent results indicate that high total intake of fruits and vegetables, and some of their specific subgroups including berries, citrus, and green leafy vegetables, may promote higher levels of optimism, reduce the level of psychological distress, and protect against depressive symptoms (31).

Therefore, the recommendation to consume at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day may be beneficial also for mental health.

Forest Bathing - How to Get Nature Therapy When You're Stuck Inside?

Summary

Interacting with nature promotes a state of calm and relaxation. 

There are many ways to get nature therapy when you're stuck inside:

  1. Bring nature to you - indoor plants and flowers.
  2. Look at pictures and videos of nature.
  3. Listen to nature sounds and music.
  4. Smell nature - try essential oils.
  5. Eat nature - fruits and vegetables.

How do you interact with nature when you can't get outside?

Interacting with nature promotes a state of calm and relaxation.

References

  1. Ye Wen, Qi Yan, Yangliu Pan, Xinren Gu, Yuanqiu Liu. Medical empirical research on forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku): a systematic review. Environ Health Prev Med. 2019; 24: 70.
  1. Marita Stier-Jarmer, Veronika Throner, Michaela Kirschneck, Gisela Immich, Dieter Frisch, Angela Schuh. The Psychological and Physical Effects of Forests on Human Health: A Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb; 18(4): 1770.
  1. Marc R Farrow, Kyle Washburn. A Review of Field Experiments on the Effect of Forest Bathing on Anxiety and Heart Rate Variability. Glob Adv Health Med. 2019; 8.
  1. Akemi Furuyashiki, Keiji Tabuchi, Kensuke Norikoshi, Toshio Kobayashi, Sanae Oriyama. A comparative study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on working age people with and without depressive tendencies. Environ Health Prev Med. 2019; 24: 46.
  1. Yuki Ideno, Kunihiko Hayashi, Yukina Abe, Kayo Ueda, Hiroyasu Iso, Mitsuhiko Noda, Jung-Su Lee, Shosuke Suzuki. Blood pressure-lowering effect of Shinrin-yoku (Forest bathing): a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017; 17: 409.
  1. Chia-Pin Yu, Chia-Min Lin, Ming-Jer Tsai, Yu-Chieh Tsai, Chun-Yu Chen. Effects of Short Forest Bathing Program on Autonomic Nervous System Activity and Mood States in Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Aug; 14(8): 897.
  1. Berman MG, Kross E, Krpan KM, Askren MK, Burson A, Deldin PJ, Kaplan S, Sherdell L, Gotlib IH, Jonides J. Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. J Affect Disord. 2012 Nov;140(3):300-5.
  1. Dijkstra K, Pieterse ME, Pruyn A. Stress-reducing effects of indoor plants in the built healthcare environment: the mediating role of perceived attractiveness. Prev Med. 2008 Sep;47(3):279-83.
  1. Lee MS, Lee J, Park BJ, Miyazaki Y. Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. J Physiol Anthropol. 2015 Apr 28;34:21.
  1. Beukeboom CJ, Langeveld D, Tanja-Dijkstra K. Stress-reducing effects of real and artificial nature in a hospital waiting room. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Apr;18(4):329-33.
  1. Fjeld T, Veiersted B, Sandvik L, Riise G, Levy F (1998) The effect of indoor foliage plants on health and discomfort symptoms among office workers. Indoor Built Environ 7:204–209.
  1. Dela Cruz M, Christensen JH, Thomsen JD, Müller R. Can ornamental potted plants remove volatile organic compounds from indoor air? A review. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2014 Dec;21(24):13909-28.
  1. Yang DS, Pennisi SV, Son KC, Kays SJ (2009) Screening indoor plants for volatile organic pollutant removal efficiency. Hortscience 44: 1377–1381.
  1. Tsutsumi M, Nogaki H, Shimizu Y, Stone TE, Kobayashi T. Individual reactions to viewing preferred video representations of the natural environment: A comparison of mental and physical reactions. Jpn J Nurs Sci. 2016 May 10.
  1. Fariba Mostajeran, Jessica Krzikawski, Frank Steinicke, Simone Kühn. Effects of exposure to immersive videos and photo slideshows of forest and urban environments. Sci Rep. 2021; 11: 3994.
  1. Chorong Song, Harumi Ikei, Yoshifumi Miyazaki. Physiological Effects of Visual Stimulation with Forest Imagery. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Feb; 15(2): 213.
  1. Aghaie B, Rejeh N, Heravi-Karimooi M, Ebadi A, Moradian ST, Vaismoradi M, Jasper M. Effect of nature-based sound therapy on agitation and anxiety in coronary artery bypass graft patients during the weaning of mechanical ventilation: A randomised clinical trial. Int J Nurs Stud. 2014 Apr;51(4):526-38.
  1. Saadatmand V, Rejeh N, Heravi-Karimooi M, Tadrisi SD, Zayeri F, Vaismoradi M, Jasper M. Effect of nature-based sounds' intervention on agitation, anxiety, and stress in patients under mechanical ventilator support: a randomised controlled trial. Int J Nurs Stud. 2013 Jul;50(7):895-904.
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Calm Forest Therapy Nature

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