Shinrin-Yoku: the therapeutic practice of ‘forest bathing’
Shinrin-Yoku, the practice of ‘forest bathing’, has roots in many cultures, but it was first identified and recognized as a form of therapeutic healing by the Japanese. In 1982, forest bathing was introduced as a Japanese public health program recognizing a true, meaningful appreciation of nature and its role in humanity.
It may seem like forest bathing is only reserved for warmer seasons, but even in winter a walk through the forest can be a therapeutic practice. Consider taking a meditative stroll through the sun-dappled woods or following a tranquil path that winds around trickling creeks, bogs, and the protective canopy of swaying, towering trees. While slowly meandering along a carpet of freshly fallen snow, brush past the foliage of an aromatic Cedar and breathe in the cool, crisp air. Sense the insulation of protective evergreens shielding you from the elements. Inhale, pausing in a moment of mindfulness, and fill your lungs with the fresh, clean forest scent. Slowly exhale. Spend a few minutes repeating these actions while appreciating the peaceful solitude. You will notice that your mood is improving and your stress is melting away.
Forests consist of a vast community of living things that communicate with each other, play a vital role in our ecosystem, regulate climate, provide a habitat for innumerable species and serve as the lungs of the Earth. What we have learned is that it is also a source of therapy. Forests and woodlots that have been banished to the perimeters of our towns and cities to pave way for a booming human population are now becoming a destination – nature’s rejuvenating health centre.
Forest bathing has many therapeutic benefits: it stimulates immune activity, reduces blood pressure, lowers your heart rate, and can result in a healthy, restful sleep. The therapeutic effects are partially attributed to the organic compounds released by plants, which help to regulate immune response, leading to significant health benefits for humans.
So, with the new year upon us, as we take a step to a new, healthier lifestyle consider taking that step – into a forest.