The healing powers of nature have been known since before we even had words to describe them. From ancient cultures that revered the land they depended on, to early herbalists and gardeners, humans have always understood that time spent in nature improved mental, physical and spiritual health. Modern science is catching up and providing the language to articulate these benefits, which can be achieved through practices like earthing. Naturism, too, developed in part because of the documented positive effects of sunlight on skin.
Another practice—one which seems so simple and obvious—is forest bathing.
orest bathing—also known as nature therapy or ecotherapy—was formally developed as a restorative practice in Japan in the 1980s, as shinrin-yoku. It’s a broad set of techniques and treatments based on the simple fact that spending time in a natural setting—ideally a forest—can vastly improve your health. Numerous studies in recent years have linked shinrin-yoku to improvements in immune, cardiovascular and respiratory functioning. It has also been found to decrease blood pressure, improve sleep functions, relationship skills, emotional health and reduce stress and aggression. A 2007 study found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting improves mood, self-esteem and motivation.
When forest bathing, there is no destination. It’s not a hike, but a wander. A slow-paced, intentional walking meditation. In cities, we walk because we have somewhere to go. A purpose or goal. The ego is either driving or being nurtured. But forest bathing removes the ego. It offers an opportunity to just be in nature.
And while all of nature can provide these benefits, there’s something special about forests. Forests are complex ecosystems where every plant, animal and insect depends on one another. They’re home to thousands of species, all sharing the space together. It has natural walls, corridors and canopies, providing avenues to walk and explore as well as shelter from the sun, wind and rain. There’s an innate peace and tranquility to forests, a sense of belonging. It’s these aspects that we can experience and absorb when intentionally spending time in forests. There is no ego in a forest.
And if all these benefits can be experienced when clothed, how much more sacred and powerful an experience would it be when in direct contact with nature?
As mentioned above, naturism as a practice of physical healing began when the positive effects of Vitamin D were discovered. There have been countless other studies on the negative effects of tight, restrictive clothing and the importance of letting our skin “breathe.” Naturists and nudists have taken these physical health benefits further and discovered the mental and spiritual healing and liberation that can be found in both personal and social nudity.
Original publication 14 September, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 26th September 2020
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