In this fast-paced urban life, one can very easily feel drained or burnt out. You become unable to perform basic tasks and try to get through the day, hoping the weekend will fix everything right back into shape. But alas! Not even the weekend can rejuvenate you. However, we know what will do the trick. What you need to do is immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and relax in its calmness. And the best way to do so is through forest bathing or ‘shinrin-yoku,’ as they call it in Japanese. The word “Shinrin” means forest, and “Yoku” means bathing.
The nation’s physical health is beginning to suffer due to our growing separation from nature and declining physical activity levels. Forest Bathing blends the physical and mental benefits of being amidst nature with the spiritual benefits of meditation to create a unique experience.
What Is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing is a therapy that originated in Japan in the 1980s and has since become a cornerstone of Japanese medicine’s preventive health care and recovery. Forest bathing and therapy (or shinrin-yoku) entail embracing the forest atmosphere with all of one’s senses. It is more than just a walk in the woods; it’s an intentional and meditative discipline of being immersed in the forest’s sights, sounds, and aromas.
Why Is Forest Bathing Good?
There are several benefits of forest bathing. It positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system, according to several studies conducted primarily in Japan and South Korea on the health benefits of spending time among the trees. In addition to these, forest bathing also benefits in the following ways:
1. Heightened Awareness
You can turn off unwanted ideas as you will be immersed and mesmerized by the sights and sounds that mother nature offers.
2. Better Mood
You will feel less irritable, worried, and depressed as the greenery and fresh air tend to affect your brain positively.
3. Boost Your Self-esteem and Confidence
During forest bathing, you tend to rid yourself of all negative thoughts and emotions; you subconsciously begin to feel much better. The goof feeling leads to good thoughts about yourself instead of perpetual worry, self-doubt, and criticism.
4. Overcome Anxiety
The chemicals that our brain releases when it is one with nature help boost our mental well-being.
5. Avoid Burnout and Stress
Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University in Japan has been studying the effects of Woodland Bathing since 2004. He discovered that leisurely forest walks result in a 12.4% reduction in the stress hormone cortisol compared to urban walks.
6. Good Hormones
Spending time amidst nature generates hormones associated with seeking happiness, connecting you to serenity while avoiding anxiety and stress.
7. Improve Your Sleep and Rest
Since you will be at peace mentally and spiritually, sleep quality improves significantly, allowing us to be refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
8. Rid Yourself of Addictions
Enhance your ability to regulate cravings and break free from addictions as you connect with your inner self.
9. Find Peace and Serenity
In the current moment, find tranquility and contentment as there exists a strong connection between the calmness of nature and happiness and mental wellbeing.
10. Improve Immunity
When we spend time in the forest, trees and plants emit phytoncides which we breathe in. In tests conducted by Qing Li, a Japanese Shinrin Yoku researcher, these phytoncides reportedly increase the activity of Natural Killer cells, which help our bodies fight disease.
Where Can We Do Forest Bathing?
In Japan, there are now 44 authorized Shinrin-Yoku forests, and the research undertaken has aided in the spread of Shinrin-Yoku and forest therapy around the world. If you don’t have access to a forest or woodland, you can practice Shinrin-Yoku in a park.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a forest in their backyard. In reality, most city dwellers have to drive a considerable distance to get near the forests. Nature, on the other hand, is all around us. You can forest-bathe everywhere on the planet, as long as there are trees, regardless of whether the weather is hot, cold, rainy, sunny, or snowy. A forest isn’t even required. Shinrin-yoku can be done at any place — in a neighboring park or your garden — once you learn to do it. You can also try out tree bathing and sense-based workouts in any urban park near you.
People who cannot go out into the city parks or are restricted due to disabilities can participate in sense-based nature therapy activities from the comfort of their homes by bringing natural elements indoors. Even in a closed cage, you can use your imagination to create a natural connection.
Tips for Newbies in Forest Bathing
To indulge in the experience fully, keep these tips in mind:
- Beginners and young children should begin with simple exercises that focus on natural objects. These can help calm their senses, improve attention, and train them to control the direction of thoughts and feelings by focusing and controlling their attention.
- Walking with a professional forest therapist can make you feel more at ease and help you find the ideal setting for your needs. You will be given a physical health check and a psychological questionnaire when you arrive. The therapist will then devise the optimal walking strategy for you.
- Without a guide, though, woodland bathing is just as straightforward. In addition, numerous activities in the forest can help you relax and connect with nature.
What Happens In a Forest Bathing Session?
Relaxing in a forest bathing session is almost instantaneous. By engaging in certain activities, you can become more aware of everything around you and focus on the more important things of life.
1. Relaxation and Awareness
Participants are encouraged to relax their muscles from head to toe before bathing in the sounds, sights, and fragrances around them, like a flowing waterfall, a full moon veiled by an overcast sky, an aromatic herb garden, or a rose garden, etc. We can expand our awareness once we achieve a calmer state of mind. The cycle of transformations can be sensed in the depths of the forest – the person we used to be and the person we are still in the process of becoming. Our connectedness to our life grows as our consciousness grows in the forest.
2. Walking in the Forest
The second activity is to spend 15 minutes wandering in a forest or a garden.
While walking through the winding paths, focus on every sight and sound around you.
Finally, you can choose a comfortable spot to sit for a few minutes. Sometimes doing nothing and only enjoying the calmness can be beneficial.
Our minds get a well-deserved break to apply themselves with renewed vigor and come up with unexpectedly innovative ideas. Rather than just pursuing answers, it learns to ask the appropriate questions. We gain new insights, learn new things, and comprehend life better. It is the start of a voyage of self-discovery.
Tips for Solo Forest Bathing
As there are numerous characteristic benefits of shinrin yoku, it is only normal to engage in it alone. And to do so, you should keep the following in mind:
First, choose a suitable location where you can stroll around aimlessly. Allow your body to lead you, absorbing the sights, sounds, and fragrances of nature while letting the forest inside you.
2. Avoid Distractions
Double-check to ensure you have left your phone or camera behind. You don’t need gadgets or other distractions while wandering in a forest; these only distract your attention and diminish the effect that these experiences are meant to provide.
3. Be Safe
Always be aware of your surroundings, stay on defined pathways, and dress appropriately (considering sun protection, allergies, and insect repellents, for example). Any potential threats, such as dangerous animals or uneven land, should also be considered. Bring a friend along or inform someone beforehand where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.
4. Give in to Your Senses
You are taking in the sights, sounds, and fragrances of nature while letting the forest in. The five senses are the key to unleashing the forest’s power. Allow nature to penetrate through your senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. Listen to the birds singing along as the leaves rustle in the breeze. Take note of the many shades of green, the sunshine filtering through the tall branches of the trees, and more. Inhale the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides while inhaling the scent of the forest. As you take deep breaths, notice how fresh the air is. Place your hands on a tree’s trunk, let the cool stream touch your toes, lay down on the ground, and stare at the sky. Inhale the scent of the forest and let go of your anxiety and stress.
How Often Should You Forest Bath?
Forest bathing for at least 20 minutes every day is a decent rule of thumb. Only 15 minutes of woodland bathing is believed to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve focus and mental clarity.
It is fine if you don’t have much free time to forest bathe every day. Any amount of time spent outside in the fresh air and sunshine is beneficial. Furthermore, since woodland bathing aims to relax and detach, it should not feel like a task. It should be a fun pastime that you look forward to.
Forest bathing can help you get back to your best self, and the best part is you do not necessarily need a forest. People of all ages can partake in this tranquil and life-altering experience. Get connected to nature and reap its benefits.