Forest Bathing at Bayou Segnette Introduction to Bayou Segnette State Park, LA
GPS Coordinates: 29.902953° N, 90.15416° W
Forest bathing is taking time to unwind and connect with nature to improve your health. Simply put: Forest bathing is retreating to nature to immerse in the forest atmosphere.
Now, Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego, Louisiana isn’t exactly a forest – it’s more like a swamp. However, in my mind, the principle remains the same.
Bayou Segnette State Park Overview
The days following Mardi Gras, March 6-8, 2019 the temperature at Bayou Segnette varied wildly. Wednesday night dropped to 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and Friday hit a high of 75 degrees. But, it did not rain… that was a bonus!
Bayou Segnette State Park is located thirty minutes across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, and offers a multitude of recreational opportunities including boating, fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking, picnicking, playgrounds and, of course, swimming in the wave pool, as well as an ecosystem that offers you the chance to spot plants, trees and wildlife from both swamps and marshland. Both salt and freshwater fishing are available because of the park’s unique location. From the boat launch, you may explore many areas not readily accessible by overland routes. Catches of bass, catfish, bream, perch, redfish and trout are common in the area.
Forest Bathing Bayou Segnette, Louisiana
Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses. This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest.  In Japan, forest bathing—known as shinrin-yoku—and is very popular. It’s based on the idea that if a person visits a natural area and simply walks in a relaxed way, they will achieve calming, rejuvenating, and restorative benefits.
In 1982, the Forest Agency of the Japanese government came up with a shinrin-yoku plan to encourage the populace to get out into nature for mental and physical exercise and stress reduction. In 2006, an organization began to give forests across the country the official designations of Forest Therapy Base or Forest Therapy Road. Visitors can take part in guided walks with experts in forest medicine or enroll in classes such as dietary management and hydrotherapy and receive medical checkups. 
Korea is now on a path to out-Japanese the Japanese in forest therapy trails and science. There, forest bathing is called Salim yok. Although Jangseong is currently one of only three official healing forests in South Korea, thirty-four more are slated to appear in the next two years, meaning most major towns will have access to one. This forest, with its dominant cypress trees, is considered a jewel in the system.
In Finland, the recommended nature dose is five hours a month, minimum. For the Finnish, though, nature is about expressing a close-knit collective identity. Nature is where they can exult in their nationalistic obsessions of berry-picking, mushrooming, fishing, lake swimming and Nordic skiing.
According to large surveys, the average Finn engages in nature-based recreation two to three times per week. Fifty-eight percent of Finns go berry-picking, 35 percent cross-country ski, often in Arctic darkness, under lights in large city parks. Seventy percent hike regularly, compared to the European and American average of about 30 percent. Fifty percent of Finns ride bikes, 20 percent jog and 30 percent walk a dog, and I particularly like this one: 5 percent of the population, or 250,000 people, partake in long-distance ice-skating. All told, over 95 percent of Finns regularly spend time recreating in the outdoors.
In Europe, 60 percent of job-related health problems are, like bad backs, musculoskeletal. But the next-highest category (14 percent) is psychological: stress, depression and anxiety. The Finnish call it “burnout syndrome,” and it significantly taxes both employers and government health agencies. 
Interesting factoid: What qualified as “nature”?
I personally like Oscar Wilde’s broad definition:
“a place where birds fly around uncooked.”
 Louv, Richard. Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life (p. 165). Algonquin Books. Kindle Edition.
 Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. W. W. Norton & Company.
Reconnect with Nature
It’s not practical to grab your backpack and tent every time you feel stressed; rush-hour traffic is driving you crazy or you’re annoyed with your co-workers. Here are a few ideas to reconnect with nature:
- Practicing shinrin-yoku (the Japanese concept of “forest air bathing,” or walking while taking in the forest environment with all senses). Multiple scientific studies have been published on shinrin-yoku in the last several years. These studies make it clear that even urban forests and parks can have the effect of a mental tonic.
- Keeping plants in your office, which might help with your attentiveness.
- Employing essential oils derived from nature, which can help you stay alert, or settle down for a rejuvenating rest.
- Exercising outdoors, which has been proven to be more beneficial for the body and mind.
- Owning a pet (most notably a dog or cat). The connections between pet ownership and physical and mental health are evident: pets can lower our stress hormones and improve other measurements of stress physiology.
- Grounding the mind with gardening and away-from-it-all excursions. Horticulture and wilderness therapies can be effective interventions for mental health issues. Do volunteer word at a local school garden, they are always looking for help.
- Following a Mediterranean diet and whole-food nutrition, which will return you to the foods on which humans evolved to thrive. 
Cornell University has a Nature Rx program. So, what is Nature Rx?
Nature Rx at Cornell believes that spending time walking or simply sitting in the natural areas of our campus benefits students’ and actually professors’ — health. Students can go to the Cornell Nature Rx website and learn about natural areas that they can visit. And when they go to the student health clinic complaining about stress, the doctors and nurses can actually give them a prescription for spending time in nature. 
The University of Essex in the United Kingdom have a similar program – Green Exercise and have been researching the concept of Green Exercise for 14 years, coining the term itself in 2003. They examine where, when, how and why Green Exercise brings health and well-being benefits. They aim to understand who can benefit most from Green Exercise, and how it can be used as a means to drive behavior change. They also research Green Care – nature-based interventions that promote health and well-being outcomes, often for specific vulnerable groups. 
Interesting factoid: Environmental education can foster
hope and meaning in life through nature-based, outdoor
adventure, civic ecology, and environmental action programs.
If you enjoyed in this article about forest bathing, you obviously care about climate change and the environment and you may also be interested in this article about what is a wannabe naturalist.
 Selhub, Eva M. (2013-06-24T23:58:59). Your Brain On Nature. Collins. Kindle Edition.
Nature Journal – Flower Press Dew Berries - Rubus sp.
Dewberries are abundant in the Louisiana swampland. The dewberries are a group of species in the genus Rubus, section Rubus, closely related to the blackberries. They are small trailing (rather than upright or high-arching) brambles with aggregate fruits, reminiscent of the raspberry, but are usually purple to black instead of red. Unlike many other Rubus species, dewberries are dioecious, having separate male and female plants.
ALTERNATE COMMON NAME: blackberry
LEAVES: alternate compound, late deciduous; 5-foliolate on primocanes (first year canes), 3-foliolate on floricanes; armed rachis
FLOWER: white, 1 inch diameter, one per peduncle (blackberries have many flowers per cluster), 5 petals, clawed; found on floricanes (2-year-old canes)
FRUIT: berries (aggregate of drupes), black, juicy: 1.5 to 2 cm long — dewberries: recepticle soft, pulls off with fruit
USES: Wildlife: berries eaten by many birds(song, quail, turkey);
Mammals: foliage browsed by deer and rabbits; cover;
Human: berries eaten 
Charcoal Sketch Bayou Segnette Sate Park, Louisiana
Growing up in South Africa, I have a healthy respect and admiration for nature. Most of my adult life I’ve lived in urban areas… big cities and busy neighborhoods. The one exception was a ten-year span when my wife and I lived in Valley Center, California. We lived on 10 acres 50 miles northeast of San Diego. As weekend farmers, we grew avocados and flowers commercially. Both of us had jobs in San Diego, and like true Southern Californians, we commuted 3 hours every day. However, and now I’m speaking for myself (my wife may have a different recollection…), the daily commute was worth it just to get back to nature. Sitting outside on the patio listening to the nighttime sounds and the occasional howl of a coyote, was bliss. Years later we ended up in Manhattan. Thank goodness our Upper Westside apartment was very close to Central Park. That’s where I fell in love with nature all over again. In the middle of a concrete jungle that never sleeps. I will always be grateful to Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of Central Park. The design of Central Park embodies Olmsted’s social consciousness and commitment to social equality ideals. I can relate.
Now that we live in New Orleans, open space and nature is all around us. Wildlife and birds galore. Bayou Segnette is my campground for ‘forest bathing’ of choice. Close to home, just enough conveniences (water and power) so I can still call it camping, and just far away enough from the everyday hustle and bustle. I feel better just thinking about it!
About the Author
Eugene Brill does not hold a PhD in Environmental Science, Botany or another scientific field. He earned an MBA in business/marketing and is a mentor to startup entrepreneurs… but he’s a dedicated Wannabe Naturalist, an avid gardener and an amateur nature photographer. He does not ‘speak’ in taxonomic groupings, species and genera; but can communicate clearly with ‘Joe Public’ in language everyone understands. Eugene is constantly improving his ability to translate science into plain English. He loves to share knowledge, believe that Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) is real, agrees that ‘forest bathing’ (fully clothed, off course… ?) makes us happier, healthier and more creative; and he subscribes to the teachings of Edward O. Wilson and the Biophilia Hypothesis.