Forest Bath

Now that we’re into fall it seems like I have a to-do list a mile long. Fortunately, even in a city like Toronto, there is still the opportunity to find the space between all the things that have to be done and slow down by doing some Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”.

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese concept, which essentially means spending time in a complete natural environment, such as a forest, for the purpose of reducing stress and increasing overall health and longevity.

This concept has been growing in popularity, appearing in various research studies and review articles.

Researchers found that spending time in a natural environment decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, decreases blood pressure, decreases resting heart rate and increases immune function.

Subjects who regularly engage in forest bathing report feeling happier, calmer and less fatigued. Other studies have shown that spending time in nature has a therapeutic effect on children who suffer from ADHD.

This weekend I followed some of High Park’s “Discovery Walks” in the city of Toronto with my dog, Coco.  Both of us walked quietly together, enjoying each other’s company, removed from the bustle of the city and the hustle of our everyday lives.

As we walked silently on the soft forest floor, feeling the sun stream through the treetops to warm our faces, it gave me a feeling of being connected to something greater. The experience helped open up a space in my busy day where I was able to contemplate my life, release some of the stress I was feeling and re-energize.

All therapeutic modalities aside, reuniting ourselves with nature is, after all, what naturopathic medicine is all about. How you do that is up to you.

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