Have you ever noticed how much more relaxed and happy you feel after being out in a natural environment? All around you; the smells, sights, sounds and touch of nature?
If you have, then you won’t be surprised to learn, it’s actually ‘a thing.’ Developed in Japan in the 80s, ‘Shinrin-yoku,’ or more commonly known in the West as, ‘forest-bathing,’ has actually been scientifically proven to help the mind, body and spirit of those who participate.
In fact, ‘Shinrin-yoku’ is so important in Japanese culture, it became part of the national public health programme over 25 years-ago and scientists has been analysing and recording the incredible health benefits ever since.
Professor at Nippon Medical School and ‘leading light’ in Forest-Bathing research, Dr. Qing Li is also author of Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. Between 2004 and 2012, he was part of a Japanese team who spent around 4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of Forest-Bathing. Part of the research measured activity of human natural killer (NK) cells (the cells associated with immune system health and cancer prevention) in the immune system before and after exposure to Forest-Bathing. Incredibly, his subjects showed significant increases in NK cells up to a week after therapy.
Research has shown that Forest-Bathing also lowers stress levels. A 2009 study showed participants who had spent 30 minutes Forest-Bathing had lower stress hormone levels, lower blood pressure and lower heart rates than those who did not.
Other Amazing Benefits of Forest Bathing:
Improved mood, reduced hostility and depression
Increased energy levels and improved focus- even in those with ADHD
Significantly improved sleep
Forest-Bathing in Srem
Srem village is located on the edge of the wooded Dervent Hills nature reserve, (part of the larger Sakar reserve area). The reserve offers hectares of ancient deciduous forest dotted with wild-flower meadows, clear mountain streams and numerous Thracian sites.
Of course, almost all of the residents of Srem village; the shepherds, the farmers, the bee-keepers, who all traverse the Dervent Hills regularly, already ‘feel’ the benefits of Forest-Bathing. Many live well into their 80s and 90s and stress is a foreign concept and only something those who live in the cities experience.
How to ‘Forest-Bathe’
Dr. Qing Li recently told online source, Mindful.org anyone can Forest-Bathe, and set out these five points on how to make the most out of your next ‘Forest-Bathing-experience.’
Find a spot. “Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you,” Li says. Some people will respond to sunny glades, others to shadier places. Listen to your own wisdom. For people who don’t have access to a forest, or can’t get outside for some reason, infusing essential tree oils in your home can provide benefits, too.
Engage all your senses. “Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet,” says Li. Actively listen, smell, touch, and look. “Drink in the flavour of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm.”
Don’t hurry. Slow walking is recommended for beginners. And it’s good to spend as much time as possible. You’ll notice positive effects after twenty minutes, says Li, but a longer visit, ideally four hours, is better.
Try different activities. Try doing yoga in the woods, or Tai chi, or meditation. Take a picnic. Write a poem. Study plants. You can venture alone, or with a companion.
Appreciate the silence. One of the downsides of urban living is the constant noise. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a wooded area that’s free from human-produced sound. Silence is restorative, and a forest can have its own healing sound—rustling leaves, a trickle of water, birdsong. Spend a few quiet moments with a favourite tree. If nothing else, when we connect with nature we are reminded that we are part of a larger whole. And that, Li notes, can lead us to be less selfish and to think more of others.
Forest Bathing with Konna Baza Sakar
If you would like to experience Forest-Bathing in Bulgaria, Konna Baza Sakar offers horse riding and horse-walking packages, taking ‘bathers’ deep into our pristine forested reserve.
The Dervent Hills reserve is completely untouched by modern agriculture, and as such is completely devoid of all pesticides, herbicides or other associated agricultural chemicals. For around a decade now, the only agricultural activities have been pastoral sheep herding, beekeeping and of course horse-riding- you could say, the reserve is managed entirely by nature- for nature!
Thanks to these practices, the Dervent Hills are covered with diverse beneficial grasses and herbs, and for us at Konna Baza Sakar it means our horses can access many essential nutrients and medicinal plants.
For this reason, we regularly take our horses to graze in the reserve, and now you can come too!
Join us (either on-foot or riding) deep into the reserve to find the best grazing spots. Grab a traditional heirloom Bulgarian blanket and immerse yourself in nature while the horses graze. Bring a book, do some yoga or simply relax in the sights, sounds and smells of nature…
Paddle in mountain rivers or collect beneficial spring water originating from deep within the rocks of the reserve. Discover ancient Thracian sanctuaries and if you’re really lucky, catch a glimpse of the incredibly rare Imperial Eagle and Sakar Falcon.
Konna Baza Sakar offers various equine escorted ‘Forest-Bathing’ options to suit all levels of fitness and riding ability- simply message us for further details.