Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) was coined in 1982 by Director of Japanese Forestry Agency and the practice of shinrin-yoku has since spread widely across the planet. Shinrin-yoku, which literally translates to ‘forest bathing,’ is used in a similar way to “sun bathing” and “sea bathing”. This is the Japanese practice of ‘bathing’ oneself in the environment of the forest, using all your senses to experience nature up close. It is one thing to put our bodies in nature, but it is quite another to put our minds there, to “bathe” in it. Therapeutic benefits of Forest bathing have been scientifically proven and it is also called “Forest (Bathing) Therapy”. Research conducted across 24 different forests in Japan shows that spending time in forest environments can create calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system, reduce concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, have positive impact on adiponectin, a protein that helps regulate blood sugar levels, increase parasympathetic nerve activity and lower sympathetic nerve energy. In fact, it is reported that, after just 15 minutes of forest bathing, blood pressure drops, stress levels are reduced and concentration and mental clarity improve.
The beneficial effects of Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy result not only from what people see but from what they experience through other senses as well. For example, in one recent study, participants recovered more quickly from psychological stress when they were exposed to nature sounds (from a fountain and tweeting birds) than when they were exposed to road traffic noise. In another study, food and fruit fragrances inhaled by hospital patients resulted in reduced self-report of depressive mood.
Furthermore, many trees give off organic compounds that support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system's way of fighting cancer.
The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:
Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells.
Reduced blood pressure
Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
Increased energy level
The impressive results that we are experiencing as we make this part of our regular practice include:
Deeper and clearer intuition
Increased flow of energy
Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
Increased flow of eros/life force
Deepening of friendships
Overall increase in sense of happiness
As indicated above, Forest therapy promises benefits for your mind and your body. We have always known this intuitively because we find ourselves feel better when we are surrounded by nature. Obviously, spending time in nature can be good for your physiological and psychological well-being compared to spending time in city environments. It can help you relax and refuel — and give you a break from the devices, worries and stress that can dominate your daily life.
Many cultures, especially shamanic cultures, point to the potential for our relationship with nature to foster something beyond relaxation. They view a connection with nature as an essential ingredient of spiritual growth as well. Clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD says forest therapy is a great way to get started with mindfulness. “The sights, sounds and smells of the forest take us right into that moment, so our brains stop anticipating, recalling, ruminating and worrying.”
“The reason we practice this is that if we find ourselves lost in thought or worry or regret at some other time, we can more easily re-center ourselves,” Dr. Bea says. “It takes a lot of practice. Our brains have been worrying and ruminating and overthinking for many years.”
If you don’t have a forest or woodland nearby, you can also practice Shinrin-Yoku in the park. You can use the following the short guideline when Shinrin-Yoku.
Leave behind your devices such as phone, camera or any other distractions, so that you can be fully present in the experience.
Leave behind your goals and expectations. Wander aimlessly, allowing your body to take you wherever it wants.
Pause from time to time, to look more closely at a leaf or notice the sensation of the path beneath your feet.
Find a comfortable spot to take a seat and listen to the sounds around you. See how the behavior of the birds and other animals changes when they become used to your presence.
If you go with others, make an agreement to resist talking until the end of the walk, when you could gather to share your experiences.