Shinrin-Yoku: Forest Bathing

Shinrin-Yoku: Forest Bathing
Photo by Donald Giannatti / Unsplash

Exposing ourselves to nature to obtain physical, mental, and emotional benefits is the principle of forest bathing. It encourages relaxation, boosts mood, and reduces stress, which is important to realize because high stress leads to chronic low-grade inflammation and disease. Forest bathing, Shinrin-Yoku, is an old Japanese practice that entails a forest bath or bathing in a forest environment by taking in your surroundings using all your senses. The point of forest bathing is not to break a sweat or make it to the end of the trail, but to simply connect with the nature around. To forest bathe, you immerse yourself in beautiful, nature-dense and health-boosting surroundings by using your five senses. It is supposed to be a very peaceful and uplifting experience that is scientifically proven to provide numerous health benefits. Forest bathing is suitable for any fitness level and can help lead to happiness and optimal health.

Benefits of Shinrin-Yoku

Shinrin-Yoku forest bathing has numerous health benefits. Weirdly, spending time in nature significantly boosts immune function. Activity of natural killer cells, white blood cells, and anti-cancer proteins are greatly increased due to the exposure of phytoncides, which are antimicrobial wood essential oils from limonene and alpha-pinene trees. Forest bathing lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, which reduces stress, anxiety, and low-grade inflammation. habitual walking in forest environments also helps lower blood pressure and heart rate by decreasing sympathetic nerve activity. It also keeps a healthy balance between the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Nature also boosts mental health. It greatly heightens creativity, boosts problem solving, reduces cognitive fatigue, enhances cognitive function, and helps combat depression and anxiety. It is important to be mindful about how much time we spend watching tv, working on the computer, or looking at our smartphones indoors. Going for a 90 minute hike in nature or for a nice forest bath is essential to interacting with the world in a healthy way. Being outdoors allows us to connect with the earth's natural energy by hiking barefoot.

How to Practice Shinrin-Yoku

Shinrin-Yoku forest bathing is at the cornerstone of preventive healthcare and healing in Japanese medicine. It was developed in the 1980s and means embracing the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk.  It is not meant to break a sweat or make it to the top of a hike. Forest bathing positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects by impacting the nervous system, reducing cortisol, and boosting immune function. Forest bathing has shown to reduce stress, anger, depression, sleeplessness, stress levels, blood pressure, and increase mental clarity and concentration. It can be practiced in a forest, park, or any forest-like nature-dense environment. Spend 90 minutes leaving technology, distractions, worries, and goals behind. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly and fully embrace the sounds of nature and the feeling of earth’s vibration beneath your feet.  Get out in N E A T U R E.

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