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Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better

Set aside the time necessary for this therapeutic exercise.

  • For a single forest bathing session, set aside two to four hours for an excursion that is at least a half-mile long. Keep in mind that this extended time frame involves several stops for becoming aware of your senses, moments of sitting still, and mindful immersion. The time frame may be increased, but two consistent hours of exposure to this outdoor therapy environment will maximize noticeable improvements to mood and overall health.
  • It is important to note that like any other therapeutic exercise, forest-bathing will require multiple sessions. It should not be treated as a one-time only treatment. Performing forest baths multiple times will improve your ability to heal and you will learn to better engage with the forest environment with each session.

Attempt at least one session of forest bathing from a certified guide, if possible.

  • A list of guided forest bathing programs is provided by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT). Guides provided on this list can be found worldwide and are trained by ANFT. These programs can be done as a one-on-one or a group therapy experience depending on the guide and location.
  • Guides are recommended for beginners due to their limited knowledge of trails and capacity to direct attention to known points of observation.

Take vital measurements if you would like to chart your progress and to keep track of your stress levels. These biometric indicators can also help you find what specific activities work best for you.

  • Visit your physician for a frequent monitoring of vital signs over time as you engage in multiple sessions of forest therapy.
  • Several wearable devices can also monitor biological signs of stress. Some suggested biometric measurements to monitor include your heart rate, blood pressure, sleep tracking, and cortisol levels.
  • It is suggested that regular forest bathing sessions may lead to reduced blood pressure, lower pulse rates, decreased cortisol levels, and better sleep patterns.[5] Although it’s not directly possible to monitor these results, this therapy may increase energy levels, improve mood, and boost your body’s immunity. Forest bathing, when carried out successfully over a course of regular sessions, should change cerebral blood flow so as to reflect the mind in a state of relaxation.
  • You may also choose to self-administer a Profile of Mood States (POMS) Test before and after your forest bathing session. This questionnaire will document any changes in psychological responses.

Take proper precautions to remain restful and peaceful in the forest setting. These preparations will make the therapy session much more comfortable.

  • Before venturing out, make sure you use proper sun protection to prevent any adverse health effects.
  • During certain seasons, the presence of pollen may be irritating, so it is important to take any prescribed allergy medication.
  • Use bug spray on your body to repel insects and prevent any harmful bites that could distract you from forest bathing.
  • Leave behind or silence any technological distractions. This will allow you to attend to the immediate experience in the natural setting.
  • For mental preparation, the ANFT suggests that you “work with the forest as a partner.”[9] This means that the forest bathing should be framed as an exercise without a final goal for the forest bathing session. The emphasis is on sensory awareness in an area that does not have a lot of other people/distractions around.

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