What is Forest Bathing?   (Shinrin-yoku)

Forest bathing involves spending time in a forest, taking in the atmosphere through all your senses, meditating and becoming aware of your connection with nature and enjoying the mental and physical benefits that come from being in nature.

The practice of forest bathing, originated in Japan in the late 1980’s and was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as “Shinrin-yoku,” which roughly translated, means “forest bathing.”

Forest bathing is a process of rewilding and is a releasing from all our learned behaviors so we can reacquaint with our true selves (Ecological self) and with that the web that comprises every living thing.

 

No two forest bathing experiences are the same and when you go into the forest you may receive the forest bath you need instead of the one you wanted.

 

Walking mindfully in nature you will discover much more than you thought you were looking for.

E.O Wilson proposed that humans are “hardwired” to connect with the natural environment, and that being in nature has a profound positive effect on human health.  Humans have evolved in nature and as a species have spent 99.9% of our time in the natural world, and our physiological functions are adapted to it.  We have evolved to find relaxation and restoration in nature.  Yet today, most people spend most of their time indoors, including a fair amount of time in enclosed vehicles.  With the constant stimuli and stresses of the modern life we are trying to adapt to, our prefrontal cortex (the fight or flight response center controlling the release of adrenaline) work on overdrive, meaning that we rarely ever enter rest-and-digest mode of being. 

As a result, we end up with chronically high levels of cortisol in our bloodstream and are plagued with high blood pressure and other medical ailments.

We are living in a crucial moment in human species history when the spiritual and the scientific worlds are beginning to merge.  We have begun to comprehend and understand what happens on both a physical and subatomic level as we engage with nature. 

 

It has been shown from a scientific point of view that spending a certain amount of time immersed in nature reduces stress, lowers heart rate, lowers cortisol levels, decreases inflammation, boosts the immune system, improves mood, increased the ability to focus, jump-starts creativity, increases energy levels, and makes us more generous and compassionate.

 

A forest bathing experience begins to blur the line between Eco-tourism and nature focused healing.

Research around the benefits of forest bathing has been focused on two components, namely; phytoncides and negative ions.  Add soil microbes to the mix to create a perfect solution.

Phytoncides are produced to help plants and trees protect themselves from harmful insects and germs, in the process they help us in similar ways.  Negative ions are tiny molecules produced in nature that offer mood-enhancing benefits.  When we forest bathe, we breath in phytoncides, negative ions and soil bacteria; together, they provide health benefits. Forest bathing with the intention of healing magnifies their effects. 

 

The health secrets of trees seem to lie in two things – the higher concentration of oxygen that exists in a forest, as compared to an urban setting, and the presence of plant chemicals called phytoncides – natural oils that are part of a plant’s defense system against bacteria, insects, and fungi.  Exposure to these substances can have measurable health benefits for humans.

 

Nature will provide you with what you most need from it in ways very specific to you.

We are part of the natural world.  Our rhythms are the rhythms of nature.  As we walk slowly through the forest, seeing, listening smelling, tasting and touching, we bring our rhythms into step with nature. 

Shinrin-yoku is a like a bridge.  By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. 

And when we are in harmony with the natural world we can begin to heal.  Our nervous system can reset itself our bodies and minds can go back to how they ought to be.  No longer out of kilter with nature but once again in tune with it, we are refreshed and restored.    We may not travel very far on our forest walk but, in connecting us with nature, Shinrin-yoku takes us all the way home to our true selves.

 

The Benefits of Forest Bathing

There are many benefits to Forest bathing including:

  1. Reduced blood pressure

  2. Lower stress

  3. Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health

  4. Lower-blood sugar levels

  5. Improve concentration and memory

  6. Lift depression

  7. Decreased risk of heart attack.

  8. More energy and better sleep.

  9. Mood-boosting effects.

  10. Decreased inflammation.

  11. Clearer, more comfortable skin.

  12. Soothing relief for sore muscles.

  13. Anti-inflammatory terpenes.

  14. Improve pain thresholds

  15. Improve energy

  16. Boost the immune system with an increase in the count of the body’s natural killer (NK) cells

  17. Increase anti-cancer protein production

  18. Protection against obesity and diabetes.

  19. Help you to lose weight

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