I'm an avid hiker, forest therapy guide and organizer of the Happy When I'm Hiking meetup group. I hope to inspire others with my writing to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature. Subscribe to my page for updates.
Published June 19th 2017
Forest bathe without stripping down
There's a wellness trend that the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku, which doctors across the world are prescribing as a way to beat stress, insomnia, high-blood pressure and a host of modern day health issues.
Shinrin-yoku translates to Forest Bathing, taking immersive, gentle walks in nature. Preferably at least once a week. This practice is good for both your physical and emotional well-being, boosts your immune system and even increases your creativity and mental capabilities! That's right, it's evidence-based that time in nature makes you happier, healthier and smarter!
If you have ever taken a walk in nature Thoreau-style, you may already be aware of the benefits of nature. Enter forest bathing, an immersive, mindful walk among the trees that has proven health benefits – both for the body and mind. Don't worry — forest bathing does not require a bathing suit nor involves a soak in a spa in the middle of a forest. And it is not a calorie-burning 20 km bush walk over the hills. There are no maps, compasses or hiking boots required.
So how is this wellness trend beneficial?
According to the World Health Organisation, stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century and is responsible for many forms of chronic illnesses. In the 1980s, Japan recognised the physiological and psychological dangers of stress and depression and sought out a new, affordable and effective way to combat it. This was the beginning of Shinrin-yoku, roughly translated as 'taking in the forest atmosphere' or 'forest bathing'.
This is largely due to the presence of phytoncides— antimicrobial organic compounds emitted by trees and other plants to protect themselves from disease. Trees "bathe" in these organic compounds which when inhaled, support our natural killer (NK) cells, part of our immune system's way of fencing off cancer.
Turns out, the serene, balanced and positive feeling you get after 'forest bathing' is just one of the many benefits backed up by science:
Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells. Reduced blood pressure Reduced stress Improved physical fitness
Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
Increased energy level
Just as impressive are the results we are experiencing when forest bathing regularly:
Deeper and clearer intuition
Increased flow of energy
Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
Increased flow of eros/life force
Deepening of friendships
Overall increase in sense of happiness
So the next time you feel a bit stressed out, switch off your phone and take a slow walk, away from crowds and noise and fully immerse in the sights, sounds and smells to really connect to the 'atmosphere of the forest'.