Forests are an amazing resource. And, from time immemorial, they have relieved us of our worries, eased our troubled minds, restored and refreshed us. Until recently, however, there was little scientific evidence to support what we always known innately about the healing power of the forest.
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is an ancient Japanese practice.
This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Indoors, we tend to use only two senses, our eyes and our ears. Outside is where we can smell the flowers, taste the fresh air, look at the changing colors of the trees, hear the birds singing and feel the breeze on our skin. And when we open up our senses, we begin to connect to the natural world.
When people started to practice shinrin-yoku, in the early 1980s, it was based only on common sense and the intuitive idea that being in the beautiful green forests of Japan would be good for us. The term was invented in 1982 by Tomohide Akiyama, who stated that the people of Japan were in need of healing through nature. The idea was also part of a campaign to protect the forests. If people were encouraged to visit forests for their health, they would be more likely to want to protect and look after them.
It was in Japan that was first scientifically proved that forest-bathing can:
Boost the immune system
Decrease anxiety, depression and anger
Reduce stress and bring about a state of relaxation
Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health
Lower blood-sugar levels
Improve concentration and memory
Improve pain thresholds
No access to a forest? No problem!
You may hace access to a backyard, a park or a patch of trees at a walking distance. Next time you are there, stand or sit quietly without movement or speech, and within a short period of time you will feel Nature waking up to your senses. And your body and your entire being become a part of what surrounds you: You are immerse in the whole.
We encourage you to plan to add a bit of time to your runs and hikes to just experience the forest and let it seep into you.
How often do you spend quiet time in the woods? Have you experienced any health benefits from it? Do you try to be intentionally slow when you’re hiking a trail?