MS and Stress: Try Forest Bathing!

Birgit Bauer
Written by
Birgit Bauer

Just a new trend or getting back to nature? Using forest bathing to calm down…

We all know that life can be too loud, too full, too much at times. We live with full schedules, rushing from meeting to meeting, we have family and a social life as well - sometimes it is overwhelming. Our jobs are not always easy and we also tend to want to be perfect all the time. When our body says a rest is really needed, sometimes we don’t listen to this important message.

This means pure stress and it has a negative impact in our lives. Especially when you live with MS, this can be a tricky thing. Lots of people with MS experience a worsening of their symptoms when they are stressed; they have fatigue, get exhausted very fast and need to rest.

Scientists have done a lot of research about the impact of stress on MS and, although it is not completely proven, there is a negative impact on MS symptoms studies say. There is a lot of research still to do, but it is known that there is an impact of stress on the brain activity and also, as mentioned, on the symptoms. In the worst-case stress can also worsen a relapse.

When I am stressed, I do some simple things: I make sure to sleep, I eat healthy and I try to calm down. I know I need distance and everything in my body cries for silence. Another thing I do is an old thing, something I know about from my Grandmother: I go into the woods to enjoy the silence and the relaxing noises you can hear between the trees.

The American Philosopher and Psychologist William James (1842 – 1910) established the difference between active attention, for example that we have at work, and the passive attention we have when we go for a walk. The active attention needs more power, the passive is the relaxing one, because it’s led by external impression which lets our mind flow - the brain doesn’t need to be active. On the other side, the green and blue colors of the woods also help our mind to calm down.

For me, a bath in the woods creates a sense of calm within. I can come back to being balanced and I am also able to sort out my negative thinking, my worries and sometimes also my anxiety.

A few months ago, I noticed this new trend for business people. It is called Shirin Yoku and it comes from Japan. It is for Japanese people who have had a very stressful day. Scientists found that a walk in the wood, in a shrine or in a park with trees during a lunch break, has a very positive impact on the people. In the year 1982, the Japanese Government declared Shirin Yoku as a part of the national health program. Well, even if we are not business people, we live with MS and sometimes experience a lot of stress. So, Shirin Yoku, or forest bathing, is also good for us living with MS I would say!

A walk in the wood can be beneficial. The air we breathe can be much healthier. It contains three major inhaled factors: beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively-charged ions. From our birth onwards, we live with bacteria around us and our body works to digest them or works with them, including providing positive support for our gut.

There is much more for scientists to do in this field of research but psychologists have found that this peaceful atmosphere has a positive effect on our mental-wellbeing. I think it is the connection between us as humans and the pure nature of the woods, so I feel convinced about my forest bathing strategy. I like to be in the woods, to be in a small piece of this huge environment. I enjoy my “personal” piece of wood. Always, when life is too much for me, I leave it for a little while and go into the woods to relax and to find new ways to solve problems or change my thinking about an issue. And mostly I find a solution or see a problem more clearly and I’m able to do something positive.

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