Nature Immersion’s Effect on Mental Health & Immune Function
Nature exposure is an effective strategy for psychological relaxation. Leisure time spent in nature lowers blood pressure and heart rate and eases feelings of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and confusion, while enhancing the feeling of vigor.
Forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku in Japanese, is the practice of immersion in nature to experience the atmosphere of the forest for the benefit of mental and physical health. This involves walking slowly through nature, or staying in one space and bringing your awareness to basking all 5 senses in the environment. Forest bathing is a widespread wellness-based leisure activity in many Asian countries with a deep well of research backing it up.
Outside of short-term life-threatening situations, stressful emotions are always connected to events in our past or concerns of our future. Vigor is a state that is only possible when our mind is in the present moment. Vigor is a feeling of being full of energy and enthusiasm, where you feel like you’re relaxed and content, but at the same time could break into a sprint or climb a tree without it feeling like a chore.
Children are a living expression of vigor, but as we become adults, many of us lose touch with this empowered state. Overrun by stress, we only experience glimpses of vigor every now and then when we get really excited. Stressful emotions hold us back from experiencing vigor. If we are anxious about some looming concern, or depressed about some unfortunate past occurrence, vigor will elude us. Vigor comes with a sense of our consciousness being in the present moment. It means we are excited to interface with what we are experiencing right now, right here in front of us.
Forest bathing has an effect on our psyche that seems to draw our awareness into the present. There is so much sensory stimulation to all of our senses at once, that it demands our awareness in a primal way that is hard to overcome without conscious resistance. Forest bathing evokes a mental state similar to deep meditation, without the demanding requirement of concentration and discipline.