Forest Bathing: The Japanese therapy approach
The trend of forest bathing originates from Japan and is called shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means "forest" and yoku means "bath". It has been practiced in Japan since the 1980s.
A mindful walk in the forest as therapy
Forest bathing means basically being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. There is no exercise like jogging or hiking involved, simply the conscious perception of the forest during a certain length of stay. Slowness and tranquility are the main values. Forest bathing can be practiced in a wellness program lasting several days or as an attentive walk alone in the nearest forest.
Various studies have proven the positive effects of Forest Bathing on humans. The therapeutic approach is designed to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, as well as calm nerve activity. Furthermore, it reduces stress and prevents depression.
Forest Bathing also promotes the formation of natural killer cells that fight infected cells or tumour cells. This has been discovered by researchers in Japan: Before and after a three-day excursion in the forest, blood and urine were taken from the test persons. While the adrenaline concentration decreased, the number of killer cells increased by about fifty percent.
Forest therapies are therefore covered by insurance in Japan and are included in the medical system. Following the example of Japan, one UK study, carried out by King’s College London and published in January 2018, found that exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong in cities improved mental wellbeing. The benefits were still evident several hours after the exposure.
Also in the USA there are several cities that offer Forest Bathing courses and trainings. But Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa are also doing well.
Forest Bathing: How to do it
First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices.
Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.
The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides.
Shinrin-yoku is suitable for any level of fitness.