Take a bath… in a forest: the art of Shinrin-Yoku

Don’t worry, this bath won’t involve your taking your clothes off in the middle of the forest! Forest Bathing (or Shinrin-Yoku) is a fairly recent Japanese pastime being also discovered by the Western World.  All it is, is walking amidst nature in order to benefit from all the airborne chemicals released by plants.

Plants have been found to emit phytoncides that stop them from rotting and being attacked by insects. These phytoncides would have a very beneficial effect on human beings.

Many studies have been conducted about the benefits of walking in forests (and its use as a preventive medicine) in the last decade in Japan and other Western countries (particularly Finland).

What the Experts Say About The Therapeutic Effects of Forests

The Finnish Forest Research Institute, the Japanese Association of Therapeutic Effects of Forests, the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine all agree that Forest Bathing can reduce stress and depression, decrease blood pressure and pulse rate, ease muscle tension, even increase parts of the immune system fighting cancer.

Different forests would achieve different results depending on the illumination, the humidity, the atmospheric pressure, the trees density and types of trees (the low relative illumination reduces anger; the low relative humidity lowers fatigue; forests located at high elevations with low atmospheric pressure can reduce depression; Japanese cedar, cypress, beech and oak are particularly effective in increasing the activity of people’s natural killer cells). But one thing is sure though, forests all achieve better results than walking in a city surrounding.

So What Are You Waiting For?

Next time you have the opportunity to go to a forest, practice a bit of Shinrin-Yoku: start by spending a few minutes looking around you in a spot you like, then walk for 2 to 4 kilometers at a gentle pace. Don’t make it arduous but make a point to really enjoy the experience through all your senses. Look around, look up. Don’t bring your ipod but rather listen to the forest sounds and murmurs, to the birds twitting. Touch the trees. Smell the forest and its essences. Rest if you get tired. Drink water if you feel thirsty. Take it easy and make it a nice moment.

All the health benefits we talked about earlier will stay with you for a few days after your walk.

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