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4 Mental Health Benefits Of Tree Bathing

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

By Lakeisha Ethans

Tree bathing has been a recent trend in fitness. It is most commonly called “forest bathing,” a translation of “shinrin-yoku,” its original Japanese name. This name translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere.”

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries first coined this term in 1982. However, the concept had existed in many cultures both before and after it became popularized in Japan.

The practice was introduced to encourage individuals to spend more of their time outdoors in a low-impact manner without intense exercise. The primary goals lie in mindfulness. It is an alternative to spending way too much time in front of technology, and it was also intended to allow locals in Japan to be more connected to forests.

Tree bathing isn’t as simple as walking around in wooded areas, however. It means mixing mindfulness and contemplation into the idea. You experience taking in and thoroughly “bathing” in the natural atmosphere in a conscious and engaged manner. That’s the core of many mindful practices. After all, engaging the senses and being aware of your environment, rooted in the present.

Tree bathing seems to have many health benefits, both for physical and mental purposes. Researchers started studying it after locals of Japan began to embrace the practice wholeheartedly, leading to an explosion of proof that forest bathing is beneficial in many different ways. Who could have guessed that taking a mindful walk in nature could be so potent?

Here are four mental health benefits of tree bathing.

It Satisfies The “3 Circle” Model of Mental Wellbeing

The Three Circles model refers to a combination of systems functioning together, namely the emotion regulation system and the nervous system. When the criteria for the healthy functioning of these systems are met, the Three Circles model applies to that scenario. To best understand what this model is, here is a breakdown of each one:

· Anxiety (The Boar)

This circle is related to the amygdala, which is crucial for protective stress and fight-or-flight responses that help you survive. It essentially means that this circle is responsible for alerts, emotions, and reactions to perceived threats. This can be helpful in difficult, sudden situations where quick thought is necessary, and the amygdala can inhibit or activate the system as needed. This circle dictates avoidance and anxiety and involves the neurotransmitters cortisol and adrenaline.

t· Contentment (The Ash Tree)

This circle deals with affiliative focus, essentially creative positive feelings by processing stimulus and using them to generate feelings of calm, kindness, affection, and more. This typically occurs from positive connections and involves the hormone oxytocin.

· Drive (The Falcon)

This circle refers to motivation to survive or succeed in some way or other, typically by achieving the collection of resources or experiencing success in life through work, hobbies, or family. It means a kind of yearning for the pursuit of great things to find happiness and positive thinking. This usually involves the chemical dopamine.

Each of these three circles must exist in a healthy balance to achieve mental wellbeing. An overactivity of any of these circles leads to mental issues, such as depression, anxiety, and other problems. For example, too much anxiety stresses you out, too much drive makes you impulsive, and too much contentment can bore you. Or, in reverse, too little anxiety makes you impulsive, too little movement makes you depressed, and too little bliss worsens that depression more.

But what does this have to do with tree bathing? Well, as it turns out, studies show that tree bathing has a positive effect on the balancing of these circles, creating an improved emotional and mental experience. A lot of early research without using this model became confused, as tree bathing affects different people differently, but the introduction of the model cleared up some questions.

Here are some complexities that the Three Circle model explains with tree bathing:

  • Some individuals experience an activation of certain circles, and others experience a subduing of certain circles, but most participants result from balanced processes.

  • Different individuals can use tree bathing for various purposes, and though they all benefit, the exact reason they help can vary.

  • Tree bathing helps control different systems in the body from a biological perspective, leading to more compelling mental health benefits.

  • There are many different kinds of happiness and different ways to experience positive thinking, and tree bathing can provide somewhat varied experiences for those involved.

  • Tree bathing helps with emotional regulation.

  • Tree bathing is good for the central nervous system.

The bottom line? Forest bathing helps to make the body balanced, which makes it an excellent mechanism for improved mental health, no matter how it personally benefits you.