What is Forest Bathing?
Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term which means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It is better known as, forest bathing. It’s now the cornerstone of preventative health in Japan. However, they didn’t invent this process. But, researchers did study it extensively and found out how it works. They found trees in mature forests emit unique healing compounds known as “phytoncides”. These organic compounds are known to boost our immune system. So, spending time in diverse forests allows us access to these natural immune system enhancers. And, the effects last long after exposure. So, forest bathing connects with the healing power of nature. We are after all a part of nature. And, now this research is spreading forest bathing as therapy throughout the world.
Why is forest bathing necessary?
Why are we just now re-discovering this? Well, most people live in cities made of asphalt, steel, and concrete. As a result, our modern life isolates us from our connection with nature. Hence, we have become more susceptible to illness and disease. For that reason, forest bathing is a way to regain this vital connection which is important for our health and wellbeing.
How do you practice forest bathing?
Scientists in Japan and South Korea spent considerable time researching elements and techniques for forest bathing. They found how to gain optimal results from the time spent. As a result, forest bathing contains two main elements.
First, it is helpful to find a mature forest. If this isn’t possible, then you can use a natural space or garden. Remember it’s mature trees that are best. Then you need to spend the proper amount of time. Strolling around a variety of trees enables us to gain exposure to the most phytoncides. Running through the forest doesn’t work. It doesn’t give you enough time to absorb them. Also, researchers found that being “calm” and peaceful helped with our ability to absorb these elements. So, you need to spend enough time in one place for you to absorb the compounds. These observations provide guidelines on the best practices to obtain the best results. This is where the second part of the process comes in.
The second part of the forest bathing is Mindfulness Meditation (follow the link for details on this practice). Research shows when participants combine the two processes together they receive the maximum benefit. Why and how does this mindfulness practice increase the effectiveness? It’s probably because mindfulness enables us to move our focus from internal thoughts to the external, to the forest around us.
The Benefits of forest bathing
- Immune system enhancement
- Lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels.
- Reduced levels of stress
- Ability to think and reason increase
- Increase in creativity
- Increased empathy for others and nature
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” — Kahlil Gibran
Finally, if this article resonates then please check out our blog. To see how this exercise fits into our blended learning process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Interested in learning these processes? Follow the link to learning options, and our page under FAQ.