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Feeling a bit grotty - try a forest bath?

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

Ferns found on a relaxing walk in the New Forest, near Southampton
The New Forest

I spend my time advising patients to exercise, take time for themselves, be mindful, relax .......... but I'm not that good at taking my own advice!

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job, my patients and the idea of treating my body like a temple. But, running a small business, working in other clinics, teaching and looking after my family leave me more prone to flopping in front of the sofa with some yummy snacks and practicing my new found love of crocheting tiny octopi for the Princess Anne neonatal unit (that's a whole other blog post!).

This week I though "enough, is enough!" and decided to try out some of the things I have advised my patients to do.

This particular day was lovely and sunny and my first patient wasn't until the afternoon, so I had a rare morning off. But also, a list of a million things that I was trying to use to persuade myself not to get dressed out of my pj's or leave the house. This week my motivation won! Yay! (It's been a rare occurrence lately). Congratulating myself for being so committed to my exercise and health regime, pulled on my wellies and my big coat and headed out to the forest.

Mindfulness in the New Forest, near Totton Southampton
Nothing more relaxing than the sound of a babbling brook

There are a fair few studies that have highlighted the benefits of forest bathing for everything from cardiovascular heath to mental wellbeing and stress relief. Hansen, Jones and Toccini (2017) state within their review of research to date, "In general, from a physiological perspective, significant empirical research findings point to a reduction in human heart rate and blood pressure and an increase in relaxation for participants exposed to nature."

Improving mental health by forest bathing and Align Osteopathy Totton
Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, Lyndhurst

Mindfulness and treatment for stress Align Osteopathy Totton Southampton
Bright holly berries at Bolderwood

An individual study on the physiological and psychological effects of forest therapy on middle-aged males with high-normal blood pressure (Ochiai et al, 2015) revealed that forest therapy elicited a significant: (1) decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure; (2) decrease in urinary adrenaline and serum cortisol levels; (3) increase in “relaxed” and “natural” feelings and (4) decrease in “tension-anxiety,” “confusion,” and “anger-hostility”. Forest therapy may prevent progression to hypertension, thereby reducing associated risks of cardiovascular and renal diseases in this patient group.

However, each of these studies did highlight the lack of robust evidence and recommend further good quality research to be able to change health protocols.

Whatever, the scientists say, I know that I felt great after my walk. I'd exercised, got fresh air, sunlight (you need all the vitamin D you can get this time of year) and a chance to really appreciate the beautiful part of the country I live in. I will definitely be recommending it to my patients and might just do it again next week!

By Gayle Jordan

Hansen, M., Jones, R. and Toccini, K. 2017. Shinrin-Your (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-art review. IJERPH [e-journal]. 14(8). pp851.

Ochiai, H., Ikei, H., Song, C., Kobayashi, M., Takamatsu, M., Miura, T., Kagawa, T., Li, Q., Kumeda, S., Imai, M. and Miyasaki, Y. 2015, Physiological and psychological effects of forest therapy on middle-aged males with high-normal blood pressure. IJERPH [e-journal]. 12(3) pp2532-2542.

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