The Japanese term “forest bathing” expresses something that human beings know intuitively: it feels really good to walk through a forest, feel the cool air, hear the living sounds, and see the light through the trees. Shinrin-yoku, meaning “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”, has been recommended by Japanese doctors since the 1980s as a treatment for psychological stress and burnout. With more and more people living in overstimulating cities and working long hours, the power of taking a break in nature has become more and more apparent.
The practice is simple: walk in a natural environment and focus on your surroundings with all five of your senses. If you want some help getting in touch with your natural environment, you can even join a guided forest bathing excursion in which a practitioner takes you through a guided meditation while you stroll through the forest. Forest bathing is a form of therapy accessible to almost anyone; even a megacity like Tokyo has ample green space less than an hour away. If you’re looking to bathe in the forest for an extended period, Japan’s many stunning national parks offer multi-day hikes which could provide the salve you need!
The health benefits of forest bathing have been shown in numerous studies since the 1990s. The practice helps to improve sleep quality, focus, and mood while lowering blood pressure and stress levels. It is not hard to see why forest bathing has become a cornerstone of preventative medicine in Japan, and is starting to be adopted by medical institutions in the West too. Why not find your nearest forest, leave your phone behind, and immerse yourself in the sensory world of the woods?
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