Shinrin-Yoku, translated into English as ‘forest bathing’, means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk.
It is a therapy that was developed in Japan during the 1980s, becoming a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have conducted studies on the health benefits of spending time amongst the trees, demonstrating that forest bathing positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system, thus reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system.
Every study conducted so far has demonstrated reductions in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness amongst the participants. In fact after just 15 minutes of forest bathing the blood pressure drops, stress levels are reduced, and concentration and mental clarity improve.
There are now over 50 accredited Shinrin-Yoku forests in Japan, with the research conducted helping to establish Shinrin-Yoku and forest therapy throughout the world. If you think it all sounds too good to be true, why not give it a go yourself? If you don’t have a forest or woodland nearby, you can also practice Shinrin-Yoku in the park. Just follow this short guide…
Step 1 – Leave behind your phone, camera or any other distractions, so that you can be fully present in the experience.
Step 2 – Leave behind your goals and expectations. Wander aimlessly, allowing your body to take you wherever it wants.
Step 3 – Pause from time to time, to look more closely at a leaf or notice the sensation of the path beneath your feet.
Step 4 – Find a comfy spot to take a seat and listen to the sounds around you. See how the behaviour of the birds and other animals changes when they become used to your presence.
Step 5 – If you go with others, make an agreement to resist talking until the end of the walk, when you can gather to share your experiences.