What is the Japanese Forest Bath and Why You Should Try It
The Japanese Forest Bath is not the kind of bathroom where you take your clothes off and get into the tub.
It’s about hiking in nature, where green is all around you, and you can wear whatever you want.
Forest bathing is a literal translation of the Japanese word Shinrin-yoku adopted by the Japanese government in 1982 to encourage citizens to make contact with nature.
The benefits of forest bathing outweigh the romance from Thoreau’s books or John Muir’s activism. These days we have irrefutable scientific evidence showing the health benefits of which I have heard for years.
In the woods, we feel at home
Throughout evolution, man has spent 99% of the time very close to nature.
Currently, over 70% of Westerners are living in urban areas, and people spend increasingly less time in nature. In the West, spending time in nature has dropped by 35% in the last 40 years. More than ever we have to make an effort to bring “wildness” to our cities.
Forest baths have a positive impact on stress indicators. They lower the blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones.
When we feel relaxed, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite reaction to ‘’run or fight’’. We disable those parts of the brain associated with executive functions such as organization, planning, and problem-solving while activating those parts responsible for pleasure and empathy.
You can only benefit from the healing touch of nature
Life in the city often disconnects us from nature. Forest bathing helps us to reconnect with nature of which we are part of and come out of isolation. This creates a feeling of reality or interconnection that comes from what Hippocrates called vis medicatrix naturae or the healing power of nature.
Forest bathing is the same thing-an opportunity to make contact with the inherent healing power of nature-from encouraging a healthy microbiome to breathe fresh air, rich in oxygen.
Don’t fool yourself if you want to benefit from going out in nature, and you have to leave home your phone and headphones. The real forest bath requires all your five senses.
It is a spiritual practice
Inspired by Buddhist and Shinto practices, forests bathing stimulate a state of untargeted keen attention and meditation.
Opening your senses towards nature helps you to develop your intuition. You experience amazement, wonder, and transcendence. You become more receptive and more inclined towards reflection, which leads to greater awareness and personal development.
Natural beauty is a source of inspiration
If you want to be creative, connect with creation. Nature have inspired writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Jack Kerouac, painters like Vincent Van Gogh and Georgia O’Keefe. Eve Ensler recently reported how a tree saved her life.
Today’s authors continue to walk in the woods, to immerse in the forest for tranquillity and inspiration, and to have time to write.
Although these may seem just like prolonged working vacations, studies have shown that forests indeed encourages creativity. In a separate study, participants have increased their creativity score with up to 50% after three days in nature.
Trees have extraordinary healing powers
Japanese researchers consider that at least some of the positive health effects come just from the smell of trees.
Many trees, especially perennial trees, release aromatic substances called phytoncides which proved to open the airways and increase immunity to various diseases and cancer. Trees have other healing properties not associated with smell, as is the case with willow, witch hazel and the ginkgo trees and yew.
We can learn from trees
Trees are among the oldest living creatures on the planet. There are some trees, thorn pines, with a lifespan of over 5000 years. Trees are patient, wise and adaptable.
Few pieces of advice to immerse yourself in the forest bathing
Look at the trees, at the plants growing where you walk, look at the fungi, mosses, and lichens. Look up, down and around you and observe the animals that hide under rocks, in burrows, and on the tree branches.
Notice the colors, shapes, and structures. Listen to the rustle of branches, birds singing or water flowing. Listen to subtle sounds.
Feel the earth beneath your feet, feel the strength of the tree trunks, see the frail leaves or the sharpness of pine cones.
Smell the fresh air and the pine flavors.
Get close and smell the flowers ☺️