Shinrin-yoku was developed in 1982 in Japan for preventative health care and as healing medicine. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bathe,” which means taking in the forest with all your senses.
Dr. Qing Li conducted studies in the early 2000’s which proved that forest bathing lowers stress hormones, suppresses the fight or flight system, enhances the rest and recovery system, reduces blood pressure, and increases heart rate vitality. The research is helping to establish Shinrin-Yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.
Forest bathing is not the same as hiking. To forest bathe, all you need to do is visit a forest, park, or natural wooded area with minimum noise from traffic and humans. If there is water movement close by, that is even better, and the trail should be easy to walk on at a slow pace. You do not need to walk more than ½ mile as you guide yourself through a forest or park. A 2-hour walk is enough time for you to slow down, focus on your senses, and find a place to sit and observe nature.
If you only have a short time to forest bathe, 20 minutes is all you need to start clearing your mind. Do not let other thoughts enter; just focus on the trees. At the end of your walk, celebrate with a snack and tea. You could bring a thermos with tea or have a knapsack with a teapot, cup, and container of hot water and focus on the teatime.
Visiting the forest can also let you experience aromatherapy. As the sun shines on trees and plants, they emit terpenes. Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds that are present in plants and essential oils. When walking in a forest of spruce trees, you may receive benefits from the essential oil emitting from the tree. The needles and twigs have volatile constituents, which can alleviate respiratory ailments, strengthen the immune system, help with the nervous system, and relieve muscular aches and pains. You may receive benefits from the effects of smelling the essential oil in the forest but not as intense as using a distilled oil in a diffuser.
You can bring the forest indoors by growing plants in your home. Plants in the house can make us feel calm and happy but are also important because they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which our bodies need to be healthy.
It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon our hearts as for that subtle something that quality of air that emanates for old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. -Robert Louis Stevenson
- Clifford, M Amos (2018) Your Guide to Forest Bathing
- Arvay, Clemens G. (2018) The Biophilia Effect