Want to feel happier and healthier? Try forest bathing.

If you’re looking for an easy way to lower stress and give your immune system a hearty boost then look no further than your local forest. Shinrin-yoku also known as forest bathing is a Japanese art of taking a solitary walk through the woods in order to bathe in the nature around you.

Shinrin-yoku translates as “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing” and the best thing about this trend is no matter what the weather, it is still effective.

SO WHERE DID THE TERM SHINRIN-YOKU COME FROM?

The Japanese forest ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku in 1982 when forest bathing became part of the national public health program. Keep in mind that Okinawa in Japan is one of the 7 Blue Zones in the world which means it’s where people live the longest and are healthiest. So they know a thing or two about good wellness practices.

Here are a few reasons why if you follow one wellness trend this autumn, it should be forest bathing.

You don’t need any special equipment or a fancy kit.

All you need is suitable footwear for walking through a forest, appropriate clothing for the season (a warm jumper in winter and a waterproof jacket at all times for example). You just need yourself and what you’d normally wear or take with you when going on a walk. This means forest bathing is an activity everyone can enjoy.

You get to leave your phone behind.

One of the main problems these days is that we are always connected. Our phones are continually beeping and bringing up notifications. But with forest bathing, you can leave your phone and camera behind and just concentrate on being at one with nature. And if you’re worried you’ll get lost, forest bathing is all about walking slowly and aimlessly in order to take in the sights, smells and sounds of the forest. You won’t need GPS as you’ll not be following a structured route.

It’s gentle exercise – designed for all.

Exercise puts a lot of people off because they think about it being high energy but this form of gentle exercise encourages reading and reflection to be included. So find a nice spot and sit down and get lost in your favourite book whilst enjoying the tranquillity of the great outdoors. Or simply just sit there and enjoy your surroundings without the stress of worrying about your inbox.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF FOREST BATHING?

Forest bathing has many benefits including:

  • Decreased risk of heart attack
  • Mood-boosting effects
  • Decreased inflammation
  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Lower blood pressure

The great thing about the act of forest bathing is that even the smallest time spent in nature can make a big difference. In fact, any time in nature can have a positive impact on our health. Just one hour in the forest is an hour you’re not looking at a screen. Plus you’re getting plenty of fresh, clean air.

If you’re forest bathing for the first time then it’s important to realise there are no rules. Well aside from the rule of leaving that phone at home. Let your body be your guide and take your time

ually the same resolutions year after year; lose weight, stop drinking, start working out 5 x a week, save more money and come the middle of January those are all but a distant memory and that strong desire you had to make major life changes has left you.

It’s something we all go through but there is a way around it. Instead of making resolutions, set intentions instead. The theory is that resolutions, whilst they are goals, they often set us up for failure from the very start because whilst we vow to lose weight, drink less or learn a new hobby we don’t set a plan on how to achieve to it.

Resolutions also harness the all or nothing approach. We miss a workout, eat something off-plan or enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and suddenly that’s it, our New Years resolutions have been broken and it’s time to quit them until the next new year comes around. Resolutions are often black and white – we either fail or we succeed.

But that’s not how we live our lives. Our lives are not simply binary choices, we are way more complex. So instead of setting the usual resolution, it’s time to set intentions instead. And the best thing about setting intentions is you can do it at any point in the year, you don’t have to wait until the 1st of January to begin.

SO HOW ARE INTENTIONS DIFFERENT FROM RESOLUTIONS?

Setting intentions requires focus and planning. So for example, if your usual resolution (like mine) is to lose weight, rather than saying “I want to lose weight this year” your intention would be “I’m going to focus on being kind to my body this year and eat the foods that will nourish me so that I can release any excess weight”. That way you’re giving yourself a specific plan on how you’re going to treat your body and how that will ultimately lead to your goal.

Setting intentions is a way of reconnecting with yourself and specifically getting in tune with your own mind, body and spirit in order to make the changes you want to make without the pressure of a resolution.

How to set intentions that work

Spend some time alone and work out what you really want from the New Year.

Self-reflection is one of the best ways to start setting your intentions. This isn’t a time to worry about what other people want from you or what you want to give to others, it’s about you. So spend some time finding your why and work out what matters to you and what you want your life to look like.

Make sure you write all these thoughts, feelings and ideas down so that you can revisit them at a later date if you’re not quite ready to commit straight away.

Plan.

Once you’ve laid out all your intentions, you need to make a plan. Nothing will just come to you, so it’s important to have a specific plan of action so that you can focus on what you need to do to achieve your goals.

Change your mindset.

Don’t go into your new intention thinking that you’re going to fail or give up. Thoughts are powerful energy, if you don’t think that you’ll meet your goal straight away or even in the time frame you’d like, then it doesn’t matter because there is something small that you can be doing to start chipping away at that goal – even if it takes you longer to get to the end result.

Create a vision board.

Vision boards may remind you of something you did in your teenage years but they are incredibly effective and useful. Create a board either from clippings or digitally via a platform like Pinterest where you can add quotes, images and articles as a reminder of what you want to achieve. Look at your vision board daily too for the ultimate motivation.

Let go.

Now is the time to let go of the past. Who cares if you’ve tried and failed at your resolutions in the past? This is the future and worrying or beating yourself up about past events isn’t going to help you move forward and flourish.

plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.

Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.

Getting enough sleep lowers your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease. Reduces stress and improves your mood. Enables you to think more clearly and do better in school and at work.

Our sleep position also matters to our health. It affects everything from the brain to the gut. We know that not getting enough sleep can make us feel de-energised. If you are getting enough sleep but still waking up tired, you might need to start looking at what the body is doing after lights are turned off in your sleep.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there is a concept of an organ clock which is a useful tool in understanding that our energy or qi, moves through the body’s meridians and organs in a 24 hour cycle. Every two hours the qi (or energy) is strongest within a particular organ and its functions within the body. It is said that each organ has its point of highest energy and lowest energy.

This 24 hour cycle is believed to help us know when to exercise, eat, have sex, rest and sleep. It also acts as a way to communicate with a particular organ or meridian (energy channel) of the body.

5 am to 7 am is the time of the Large Intestine making it a perfect time to have a bowel movement and remove toxins from the day before. It is also the ideal time to wash your body and comb your hair. It is believed that combing your hair helps to clear out energy from the mind. At this time, emotions of defensiveness or feelings of being stuck could be evoked.

7-9am is the time of the Stomach so it is important to eat the biggest meal of the day here to optimize digestion and absorption. Warm meals that are high in nutrition are best in the morning. Emotions that are likely to be stirred at this time include disgust or despair.

9-11am is the time of the Pancreas and Spleen, where enzymes are released to help digest food and release energy for the day ahead. This is the ideal time to exercise and work. Do your most taxing tasks of the day at this time. Emotions such as low self-esteem may be felt at this time.

11am- 1pm is the time of the Heart which will work to pump nutrients around the body to help provide you with energy and nutrition. This is also a good time to eat lunch and it is recommend to have a light, cooked meal. Having a one hour nap or a cup of tea is also recommended during this time. Feelings of extreme joy or sadness can also be experienced at this time.

1-3pm is the time of the Small Intestine and is when food eaten earlier will complete its digestion and assimilation. This is also a good time to go about daily tasks or exercise. Sometimes, vulnerable thoughts or feelings of abandonment my subconsciously arise at this time.

3-5pm is the time of the Bladder when metabolic wastes move into the kidney’s filtration system. This is the perfect time to study or complete brain-challenging work. Another cup of tea is advised as is drinking a lot of water to help aid detoxification processes. Feeling irritated or timid may also occur at this time.

5-7pm is the time of the Kidneys when the blood is filtered and the kidneys work to maintain proper chemical balance. This is the perfect time to have dinner and to activate your circulation either by walking, having a massage or stretching. Subconscious thoughts of fear or terror can also be active at this time.

7-9pm is the time of Circulation when nutrients are carried to the capillaries and to each cell. This is the perfect time to read. Avoid doing mental activities at this time. A difficulty in expressing emotions may also be felt however, this is the perfect time to have sex or conceive.

9-11pm is the time of Triple Heater or endocrine system where the body’s homeostasis is adjusted and enzymes are replenished. It is recommended to sleep at this time so the body can conserve energy for the following day. Feelings of paranoia or confusion may also be felt.

11pm-1am is the time of the Gall Bladder and in order to wake feeling energized the body should be at rest. In Chinese medicine, this period of time is when yin energy fades ad yang energy begins to grow. Yang energy helps you to keep active during the day and is stored when you are asleep. Subconscious feelings of resentment may appear during this time.

1-3am is the time of the Liver and a time when the body should be alseep. During this time, toxins are released from the body and fresh new blood is made. If you find yourself waking during this time, you could have too much yang energy or problems with your liver or detoxification pathways. This is also the time of anger, frustration and rage.

3-5am the time of the Lungs and again, this is the time where the body should be asleep. If woken at this time, nerve soothing exercises are recommended such as breathing exercises. The body should be kept warm at this time too to help the lungs replenish the body with oxygen. The lungs are also associated with feelings of grief and sadness.

Chinese Medicine practitioners use this clock to help them determine the organ responsible for disease. For example, if you find yourself waking up between the hours of 3-5am each morning, you may have underlying grief or sadness that is bothering you or you may have a condition in the lung area.

If feelings of anger or resentment arise, you may feel them strongest during the time of the Liver which is 1-3am or perhaps if you experience back pain at the end of your working day, you could have pent up emotions of fear, or perhaps even Kidney issues.

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE NEED?

Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours

Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours

Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours.

Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

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