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'Bush bathing on the agenda for Labour Weekend - no water required'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

National Gardening Week kicks off today and the call is out this Labour Weekend to dip your toe into some Bush Bathing.

Bush Bathing is New Zealand’s version of ‘Forest Bathing’- the Japanese practice known as Shinrin Yoku (literally meaning forest bath), that is based on the premise that nature has a profound effect on our overall wellbeing.

No togs and towel required and there is no water involved. Bush bathing is a gentle wander through a green space, sitting or lying under trees and tuning in to the smells, textures, tastes and sights of the forest.

Studies have shown that connecting with the environment and clearing the mind has the power to improve mental and physical wellbeing. The science behind it is found in a substance called phytoncides which are protective antimicrobial essential oils released by trees and which also offer a host of reputed health benefits for people. The oils boost mood and immune system function; reduce blood pressure, heart rate, stress, anxiety, and confusion while improving sleep and creativity.[1: Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function - see References at end of document][2: Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function - see References at end of document]

New Zealand certified forest bathing guide and trainer, Vicky Kyan, says it is a matter of connecting with nature through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

"We spend so much time indoors and with technology that even a small amount of time spent with nature can have an impact on our health. A bush bathing session will help you to unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment, de-stress and relax you and literally bring you back to your senses," says Ms Kyan.

The good news is that if there is not a forest or a bush near you, your own back garden is just as good.

Fiona Arthur from Yates said gardening has long been recognised as a natural health boosting exercise and bush bathing takes the health benefits to a whole other level.

"There is increasing evidence that exposure to plants and green space, and particularly to gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health. Apart from the exercise aspect, there is soaking up Vitamin D, improved mood and less stress, not to mention the economic benefits of growing your own food. [3: Science Direct: Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis - see References at end of document][4: Emotional well-being while home gardening - see References at end of document]

"So if you’re in the garden pulling weeds and planting your summer crops this weekend, with no bush in sight, take a moment to stop and connect with your surroundings for a spot of bush bathing at home," says Ms Arthur.

The Japanese have studied the benefits of Shinrin Yoku, which they developed in the 1980s, and given the clear evidence of the benefits, have incorporated it into the country’s national health programme. In England, following their own studies, British GPs are considering making it a part of their social prescribing.

In a different take on bush bathing, members of NZ Naturists Federation will be getting at one with nature for National Nude Gardening Day on Saturday 24th October, coinciding with National Gardening Week. There are more than 18 clubs across the country and many hold open days over Labour Weekend.

Naturists Federation NZ’s president, Wendy Lowe, says the philosophy of naturists aligns beautifully with that of bush bathing.

"There is nothing more liberating than removing your clothes and connecting with nature, enjoying the air and sun on your body. It is almost meditational in itself. But bush bathing takes the experience further as you can truly connect with what is around you. However, we would suggest taking a blanket or pillow to sit on while communing with nature."

About National Gardening Week

National Gardening Week aims to foster a love of gardening with a focus on growing not only plants but friendships, good health, strong communities and closer connections with nature. Whether it’s a few pots on the balcony, a small patch or an extensive garden, everyone can experience the joy of gardening.

The theme for this year’s National Gardening Week is "PLANTS FOR A BETTER PLANET." Planting for a better planet has never been more important - for food, for the environment and for health.

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