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Did you know that forest walks are good for your hair?

It turns out that these walks, which are good for your soul, relieve you of stress, and which I'm sure we all enjoy, have a special method of connecting to the relationship between nature and mental health in Japan: Forest Bathing. It is the practice of "bathing or swimming" in the atmosphere of the forest, also known as Shinrin Yoku.

Participants in Japanese Shinrin Yoku experiences would walk through the forest, enjoying the presence of trees while absorbing the quiet benefits of forest therapy.

While it started out as a simple meditation practice, researchers quickly began to discover that going for a walk in the woods created a number of long-term health benefits for both body and mind. Soon, science began to give credence to the practice of Shinrin Yoku.

Shinrin Yoku participants improve their health by walking in a forest environment, alone or with forest therapy guides who help them access the relaxing power of walking in nature. Forest therapy is not the same as exercise. It does not require increasing your heart rate like walking or running. The focus here includes the mental health benefits of immersing yourself in the natural world and letting your own mood guide your activity.

Although it may seem simple, forest bathing has many scientifically supported benefits. Spending 20 minutes in the forest creates a wellness ripple effect with long-lasting benefits for both body and mind.

One way forest bathing works is with our sense of smell. Think about your favorite floral perfume or how essential oils are applied while receiving treatment at the spa. We instinctively know that natural scents interact with our brains to create an increased sense of well-being.

As we breathe in the forest air, we see benefits at a deeper level than we realize – at a more cellular level. People who have spent time in the forest are believed to have higher levels of "natural killer cells," which are critical for the body's ability to fight viruses and prevent tumors from forming.

Inhaling a natural scent works to instantly calm our distracted minds and give us a sense of well-being. And forests are full of wonderful scents, from the fresh green scent of tree canopy to the sweet scent of wildflowers. A walk among the trees creates an opportunity to practice an instinctive connection to forest therapy, allowing our brains to process the deeply soothing sensory input of natural scents.

The benefits of forest therapy don't end with scents. In fact, some of the most important ways walking among trees improves well-being are much bigger than what we can pick up with our noses. Research shows that spending time mindfully in forests can:

• Lowers your blood pressure

• Increases feelings of awareness

• Improves your sleep quality

• Increases your energy level

• Improves your mood

• Increases your ability to find deep focus

• Strengthens your immune system

• Speeds up or helps you recover from illnesses and injuries

• Reduces stress and increases coping mechanisms when it occurs

The most powerful of these effects depends on preventing your brain from producing excessive stress hormones, which can have a number of negative effects on health. Long-term exposure to the hormone cortisol can cause hair loss and slower hair growth. While taking care of your hair with trichological hair care products can help, it's also important to find ways to reduce stress, such as forest bathing.

In addition to reducing stress, evidence shows that spending time outdoors works to improve your overall health and well-being. Research shows that spending time in nature reduces incidences of depression and may actually make therapeutic interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, more effective. This is due to both the experience of walking in the natural world and a possible side effect of vitamin D exposure, which can affect mental health and is chronically low for many people.

Research shows that exposing people to the beauty of the natural world increases feelings of awe at the magnificence of the natural world.

If you're interested in discovering a forest bathing experience of your own, you don't need to go all the way to Japan. Recreating the effects of forest therapy is a matter of finding space to intentionally experience nature wherever you are, and you don't need a book to get started. Instead, just let your senses be your guide. First, take the time to unplug. If you have your phone with you, turn it off or put it on silent. Start walking slowly among the trees, breathing. Tune in to your senses. Do you hear the sound of birds? Do you see the sunlight shining through the branches? Can you smell the forest air? Try to focus clearly on your experiences and let nature wash over you.

Even if there's no forest near you, you can still experience the benefits of forest bathing.



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