Forest Bathing - an antidote to modern life
With perhaps a slight downswing in 2020 - because of you-know-what - life seems to get busier every year. It’s only rarely that we can take time to slow down, get outside and bask in birdsong or hug a tree. Forest Bathing invites you to do just that and immerse yourself in the sounds, scents, and sights of the forest. No goggles or speedos required.
What is forest bathing?
Forest bathing is an English translation of the Japanese phrase ‘shinrin-yoku’. While the concept of ‘forest bathing’ sounds a little esoteric, it simply means supporting wellbeing by spending quiet, mindful time in nature. This relaxation practice was developed in Japan, and it invites you to take notice of the natural world, breathe deeply and calm your mind.
The term emerged in Japan in the 1980's to offer an antidote to modern burnout and to inspire local people to reconnect with and protect their country’s forests. In the 1990s, researchers studied the physical and mental benefits of forest bathing, with scientific findings that supported what we know innately – that time spent in nature is good for us.
While the concept of shinrin-yoku has recently become more widely known, the practice isn’t new, or confined to Japan. Many cultures recognise the connection between human health and biophilia - an innate, biologically-driven need to commune with nature. Trees, and evergreens in particular, release phytoncides - airborne essential oils that naturally boost immunity, providing health benefits that can last for weeks.
The benefits of forest bathing
Regular, mindful time spent in forests and among trees has been shown to not only boost immune function, but also lower blood pressure, support focus, speed up recovery from illness or surgery, increase energy, and improve sleep. And best of all, shinrin-yoku needs no special equipment, ancient forest or Olympic fitness level. It’s just about finding some trees and mindfully hanging out with them. It can be as easy and accessible as walking in nature and connecting with the green environment.
Get the most from forest bathing
- Switch off. Disconnecting from the everyday world (especially your devices) will help you unwind.
- Breathe deeply. Listen to your breathing and observe the rhythm of your breath.
- Take it slow. By walking slowly and mindfully, you’ll notice more and immerse yourself in the green space more quickly.
- Use your senses. Reach out to touch a tree, look up at the canopy, listen to birdsong, inhale a deep whiff, and ask yourself how the experience makes you feel.
- Sit and observe. You might be surprised how much you notice when you sit quietly.
- Stay awhile. Two hours is best, but even 30 minutes goes a long way.
- What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis
- The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature
- Effect of Forest Bathing Trips on Human Immune Function
- Effect of Phytoncide from Trees on Human Natural Killer Cell Function
- Forest Bathing Enhances Human Natural Killer Activity and Expression of Anti-Cancer Proteins
- Phytoncides (Wood Essential Oils) Induce Human Natural Killer Cell Activity
- The Physiological Effects of Shinrin-Yoku (Taking in the Forest Atmosphere or Forest Bathing): Evidence from Field Experiments in 24 Forests Across Japan