The Benefits of Deep Forest Relaxation and Forest Therapy
by Peter Sacco
Are you someone who has a hard time seeing the forest from the trees literally?
That is, you’re not too in tune with nature and don’t do the ‘nature walk‘ thingy often, or ever? Are you more of an iron jungle and technology type of person, whereby everything that surrounds you is usually of a 9 to 5 mentality?
Then perhaps you’re someone who could benefit from starting to see both the forest and the trees together and start connecting with your natural roots!
Or maybe you remember those days when you did spend time in your favorite forest but haven’t had the chance for many years, and long to experience the peace and connection once again.
When was the last time you went on a nature walk?
Did you know research is being done to investigate the health benefits of spending time in a forest and this is now called ‘Forest Therapy’? Yes, there are studies going on all over the world and particularly in Japan.
But what’s Forest Therapy all about?
WHAT’S THE BENEFITS OF FOREST THERAPY?
Research is showing forest therapy has honest to goodness physiological and mental health benefits? The Japanese refer to forest therapy as ‘forest bathing’ where you literally sponge up the benefits of spending time in the forest.
Many people use CD’s or MP3 downloads to simulate the sounds of nature in the background.
These days you can purchase media where the entire themes are purposely composed of nature sounds such as waterfalls, rain, birds singing, and other forest sounds. If you can’t be in nature, then bring the sounds of nature to you. From this experience alone, it allows a mental and/or psychological escape from the mundane, even stressful urban sounds and realities of everyday living.
The fact is you can visit the forest and still be in downtown Manhattan so to speak!
Have you ever noticed television commercials incorporate ‘nature’, usually forests into their themes? When it comes to ‘automobile’ or ‘laundry’ commercials, the message is about escaping the confines of the city and reaping the benefits of deep, nature relaxation in the country.
By using ‘their product’, they lead you to feel this ‘relaxation’ is possible… of course when buying their product.
The famous medical doctor and author/personality Dr. Andrew Weil asserts spending time in the forest and engaging in deep forest relaxation can lower levels of salivary cortisol, the hormone that rises when we’re under stress, and can lower blood pressure and pulse rate. Furthermore, it can trigger dramatic increased in the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which are produced by the immune system to fight off or prevent infections and cancer cells.
How much time does one have to spend in the forest to reap the benefits of forest therapy?
Apparently, researchers from Japan have found spending three days in the forest increases natural killer cell activity by 50%, and this effect can last up to one month! Even more intriguing findings came from spending time in forests or activities that were forest related.
A Japanese study showed that just gazing at forest scenery for 20 minutes reduced salivary cortisol levels by 13.4 percent, bringing them down to lower-than-average concentrations among city dwellers.
The Japanese practice ‘Shinrin-yoku’ which translated means a ‘medicine’ for the mind by basically spending time in a forest.
They refer to it as ‘forest bathing’ and taking in through all of the senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, everything the forest offers.
This approach began in the 1980’s and has become a cornerstone for Japanese health in terms of it being a form of preventative medicine.
Many companies, in Japanese cities, started making employees ‘exercise’ outside during workhours on rooftops (Of course there are no forests in the cities) as they hoped by spending some time in natural elements it would create a healthier mind and body.
The hope was workers would be more productive both physically and psychologically, and there would be less sick days.
Western medicine for many years – and unfortunately many Doctors still today – were skeptical of anything not based in scientific fact, and even with evidence of these studies the scientific community still doesn’t get the powers of eastern preventative medicine. Western medicine still deals mostly in remedies to help you get better when you’re sick, rather than preventing sickness.
But it’s changing as alternatives like mindfulness and hypnosis are used to compliment medicines for healing.
So, you’ve decided to reconnect with nature but what if your nearest or favorite forest is 100’s of miles away or it’s the middle of winter? Here’s where you bring the forest to you…
BRINGING THE FOREST TO YOU:
This means you don’t necessarily have to always be spending time in the actual forest to get the benefits, rather it’s your perception of your surroundings which have much to do with how you feel. It’s the perceived sights, sounds and smells associated with trees, birds, running streams, and wildlife which seem to reconnect humans to nature and help them feel refreshed and revitalized!
The earlier experiments conducted in Japan were interesting in the fact the mind itself can be led to believe even though the entire body is in the city, the mind can still escape to nature… a virtual forest!
When the mind is able to escape to a forest, even in one’s imagination, or through the power of suggestion, hypnosis or self-hypnosis, the health benefits are remarkable! The studies conducted in Japan showed the participants who were tested demonstrated more favorable and healthy outlooks after spending time in ‘cyber forests’.
After viewing forest-based sceneries, the participants in the study reported possessing higher rates of feeling vigor, and also feeling remarkably refreshed!
Overall, they felt more comfortable, soothed and at peace in nature.
Furthermore, those individuals who originally felt confused, fatigued, anxious, filled with tension, and even depressed or angry, felt better. The moral of the story; even though being in a forest is definitely relaxing, you don’t necessarily need a real one if your mind believes it’s capable of escaping to one.
What if you’re not always able to spend time in a forest, especially if you live somewhere where there are none, or climate does not allow it?
Well then, time to bring the forest to you!
One of the best ways to create forest therapy in your own home is through visualization and hypnosis. From the results of the experiments just discussed, it’s easy to simulate a relaxing ‘forest experience’ in your mind, anytime and anywhere.
Where your thoughts go, your energy will flow.
If you truly believe you’re in a forest, or floating on a small sailboat on a stunning, turquoise body of water, then that’ll be your reality. It’s all a mindset you get to create for yourself, and a hypnosis CD or MP3 can help you get there much faster!
You can get wonderful CD’s and MP3’s with all the background sounds of the forest which places you there in the here and now, even if you’re in the Nevada desert, or locked in a New England winter! These are readily available from Amazon.
But with these CD’s you don’t get the power of combining those sounds with hypnosis and going into a deeper state of relaxation and healing of stress and the capacity for peace.
It’s all about perception and combining these sounds with hypnosis, your unconscious mind is unable to tell the difference. It can be told you’re in the forest and therefore reap many of the benefits of being in a simulated forest.
Finally, here at Free At Last Hypnosis we practice what we preach. We leverage concepts discussed here as a resource during our online and in-office sessions for our stress and anxiety hypnosis management program which you can learn more about it here >>>
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES RELATED TO RELAXATION:
Peter Andrew Sacco Ph.D.
Free At Last Hypnosis
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