Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term meaning forest bathing. What images come up for you when you hear these words? For me I imagine giant trees all around and above me, thick green bushes, vines, ferns, a wonderful breeze, light breaking through the canopy, the rustling of little animals, birds singing, and a deep, earthy smell.
The term ‘forest bathing’ is relaxing, and that’s the whole idea.
Shinrin-yoku was coined in 1982, and over the years has been researched and studied to see what is going on in the bodies and minds of those experiencing it.
Take A Walk
When you are out forest bathing, there is no effort. To sit and meditate on the forest floor is shinrin-yoku. Gently meandering through the trees is shinrin-yoku. Putting in effort and thought, having a destination or purpose, even if you are in the forest, is not shinrin-yoku.
The idea is to just ‘be’ in nature. Let everything go on around you and be present with it. This is mindfulness at its very best.
What’s In It For Me?
So what are the specific benefits of forest bathing?
- decreases cortisol levels in the body (cortisol is a stress hormone. When we are stressed, it will increase to levels that will trigger the flight-or-fight response. It is a problem when someone is in this state day in and day out.)
- decreases pulse rate
- decreases blood pressure
- improves weakened natural killer cell activity (our immune system’s way of fighting cancer)
- improves mood, energy, and sleep
We, as humans, have evolved from nature and are still strongly connected to it. Even though we fight it, we are a part of the earth and the earth is a part of us. Forest bathing is the perfect example of why we need nature in our lives, and what we gain when we let it in.
The Trees Are The Key
The scent given off by each individual tree is therapeutic. Phytoncides are substances given off by plants and trees that are used as protection against harmful germs and insects.
When we are near trees, we just naturally breath these in. Not all of the benefits of forest bathing can be attributed to phytoncides though.
It is the perfect combination of the sounds, smells, sensations, and sights – babbling brooks, the sound of the wind through the leaves, the beautiful views, fresh air… – that makes forest bathing the relaxation powerhouse that it is.
Sometimes stress can hide in our bodies or maybe we are just blind to how it is affecting our life. Everyone can benefit from a little de-stressing. We all need it, and we all benefit from it.
Yours in plant love,
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Li Q1, Kobayashi M, Wakayama Y, Inagaki H, Katsumata M, Hirata Y, Hirata K, Shimizu T, Kawada T, Park BJ, Ohira T, Kagawa T, Miyazaki Y. Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function: PubMed. 2009. Article. 24 April 2017.