Forest Bathing & Essential Oils | Improve Mental & Physical Health
If you haven't been in a forest or taken a stroll through nature lately, you may want to consider taking a mental health day(1) and ideally venture out to a forest, placing yourself amidst the trees and sounds of nature. If unable to get out to nature, nature can be found by visiting a local park and just sitting underneath a tree to improve fatigue and stress(1).
In 1980s Japan, Tomohide Akiyama coined the term “forest bathing”, known in Japanese as Shinrin-yoku. Japanese forest bathing is a practice of nature therapy that began in response to the negative effects of depression and overall mental health(1). It is a technique of observing and spending time in nature to stimulate the senses to bring calm and quiet to your mental state. Simply closing your eyes and listening to its sounds brings on deeper breath that in turn releases tension and stress and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and the vagus nerve.
Shinrin-yoku surfaced as a preventative health care and scientific findings have illuminated what we innately already know, that the natural world brings positive effects, is good for the soul (and the brain) and has a multitude of health benefits that not only offers stress reduction and reduced cortisol levels but also improve happiness, well-being and cognition(2). Even the alchemist Paracelsus stated, “The art of healing comes from nature, not the physician”(3).
The therapeutic results of many promising studies include(4):
- Improved immune system function
- Reduced stress hormones such as cortisol
- Reduction of hypertension and lowered blood pressure
- Improvement of respiratory function
- Better mood and decreased depression and anxiety
- Relaxed mental state
- Increased feelings of gratitude and selflessness
For example, in 2019 a small study(1) in Japan took workers who complained of stress and fatigue, some with and some without depressive tendencies and measured their blood pressure and pulse rate, mood states and other autonomic functions. After a day in the forest, every one of the participants experienced improved blood pressure and emotional states, but the largest improvement was with those who had depressive tendencies. In another study cardiac patients(1) spent only 30 minutes in nature and all of the participants gained overall improvement in cardiac function. A larger study in Japan followed nearly 500(1) residents suffering from acute and chronic stress. Using meditation and relaxation techniques in forest environs, salivary cortisol levels significantly decreased thereby improving instances of anxiety and stress and bettering self-esteem.
Other Techniques for Improving Overall Health
Earthing & Grounding
Another reason to get out to nature and throw your shoes aside is that new research is pointing to the possibility that connecting to the electrical conductivity of the earth’s surface may regulate different functions within the body(5). This practice of simply walking barefoot on the earth's surface whether dirt, sand or grass is called “earthing” or “grounding.” Studies have reflected earthing’s ability to improve sleep and mood, along with reducing pain, inflammation, and stress(6,7). This has prompted new research into the effect of earthing on mood and mental health and results so far have been promising(8).
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
Aromatic plants have been used throughout history to support one’s health and diet and exercise have been touted as the building blocks of well-being for decades, but one fairly new, holistic modality that can better one’s mental health is called Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Using similar concepts to that of acupuncture, EFT involves stimulating acupressure points. EFT, though still novel, has shown promising results in reducing anxiety, depression, and PTSD(9). This method can be learned here.
Forest Bathing & Essential Oils
What happens when you cannot take the time or have the means to get out to nature? Our suggestion … bring nature indoors with the power of essential oils to improve mental and physical health. Whether you need a few minutes of rest from work or circumstances are simply overwhelming your life, essential oils are a breath of fresh air for use during a yoga or meditation wellness session. Clinical studies have shown that essential oils can encourage relaxation, productivity, memory, happiness, fearlessness, and more(10).
The use of essential oils with their origins in the forest include Spruce- Black, Cypress, Pine- Scots, Fir- Douglas and Fir- Balsam. All are exceptional in mediating the aromatics of the forest air. Each one of these essential oils is made from branches, leaves, twigs or needles and whether combined with other essential oils or used singly is especially helpful for opening the breath and supporting the respiratory system. Read more about Spruce- Black and Cypress- Italian essential oils on the respective blog posts.
Other benefits and varying abilities of the above oils are:
- Antispasmodic (beneficial for muscle pain)
- Sedative & Relaxing
These oils can be added to easy-to-carry essential oil inhalers, added to essential oil jewelry or made into an essential oil roll-on for on-the-go use. At home or in the office, diffuse them with any one of Edens Garden magnificent diffusers.
To truly convey yourself into a calming environment whether indoors or outdoors, we highly recommend turning off all devices. If indoors consider diffusing Edens Garden lofty blends of Forest Fresh or Winter Wonderland. Find a comfortable place to relax, close your eyes and picture the protective blankets of moss on the forest floor and be humbled by the stately trees while you deepen your breath and take in these earthly aromatics.
Explore blends handcrafted by Edens Garden that target the reduction of tension and anxiety. One of our most popular blends is Anxiety Ease which is singular in its ability to support mental health. If you are unsure where to begin, consult our Emotional Support Cheat Sheet and if you still have questions, reach out to Edens Garden via email for help from Ask An Aromatherapist®.
- A Comparative Study of the Physiological and Psychological Effects of Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on Working Age People with and without Depressive Tendencies https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6589172/
- Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580555/
- Paracelsus https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Paracelsus
- Medical Empirical Research on Forest Bathing https://environhealthprevmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12199-019-0822-8
- Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth's Surface Electrons https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/291541/
- Effectiveness of Grounded Sleeping on Recovery After Intensive Eccentric Muscle Loading https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6360250/
- The Biologic Effects of Grounding the Human Body During Sleep as Measured by Cortisol Levels and Subjective Reporting of Sleep, Pain, and Stress https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650465
- The Effect of Grounding the Human Body on Mood https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25748085
- Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381429/
- Therapeutic Effect and Mechanisms of Essential Oils in Mood Disorders: Interaction between the Nervous and Respiratory Systems https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8125361/