Ah spring, at last. Warmer temperatures, brighter nights and for reason, the innate inability to fall asleep.
Yup, although it’s lovely to once again see the sun, many people start to suffer from sleep-related problems during the change in seasons several reasons.
Firstly, we get an extra hour of light which can make it harder to sleep at night as our internal body clock is confused as to why it’s no longer dark in the late afternoon.
Then there are the added social pressures that come with spring - people make more plans and may drink more - both of which can negatively impact a person’s sleep as it’s no longer as much of a priority.
However, overcoming these sleep-related issues could be as simple as getting outdoors – for just 17 minutes, in fact.
Yup, spending just 17 minutes outdoors each day can positively impact your sleep, according to the sleep pros at Happy Beds.
Studies show that just 120 minutes per week (so 17 minutes per day) spent outdoors is associated with good health and well-being.
Those who spent more time outdoors discovered their sleep hormone (otherwise known as melatonin) started to rise at sunset, around two hours earlier than their usual bedtime, meaning they fell asleep much faster at night.
They also woke earlier the next morning, alongside the sunset.
So, what’s the best way to bag those minutes outside according to the experts? Forest bathing.
Let us explain. Whilst this practice has been around since the 1980s, it’s gaining a lot of popularity online, with the #forestbathing Tiktok hashtag gaining over 46 million views, and the number of people Googling ‘forest bathing’ increasing by 132% in the first three months of 2023.
Whilst forest bathing may sound like you go to a forest to take a bath in a pond or lake, this isn’t exactly true.
Instead, it’s the act of walking through a forest (or wood) and taking time to slow down and immerse yourself in nature. You soak up the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the environment which, in turn, lower your cortisol levels (otherwise known as the stress hormone) and create more positive emotions such as joy, vitality and peacefulness.
A beginner’s guide to forest bathing for the first time
Forest bathing isn’t just about spending time outdoors in beautiful scenery; it’s about feeling it. Here are our top tips for igniting your senses:
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that allow your feet to sink into the ground as you walk, so you feel more connected to the earth. If you plan on getting wet or going out on a rainy day, make sure you have waterproof shoes, too. All of this will prevent your mind from focusing on uncomfortable shoes or clothing.
- Smell the air as you walk through trees and pass any plants. Think about which smells are strongest and take in the environment. Can you smell pine needles, wildflowers or other?
- Notice the sounds of rustling leaves, birds and other animals. If you see any, try to identify them by their size, shape, colourations, and patterns. Or if you spot an animal moving through the trees quickly, try to guess what it might be.
- Touch your surroundings. As you pass a tree, brush it with your hand to feel its roughness, or reach out and touch the leaves of an overhanging branch to see its texture. Feel the texture of leaves, moss, and other plants. If you see flowers, pick one (if it’s allowed).