Forest bathing is good for us. Immersing our senses in nature can have a relaxing and restorative effect, supporting our health and wellbeing. But how exactly?
In this blog post I pull together a list of some of the ways that forest bathing is good for us. I hope it encourages you to give it a go!
What is forest bathing?
Shinrin yoku (translated from Japanese as ‘forest bathing’) is the practice of slowing down and immersing ourselves in the atmosphere of the woods.
Forest bathing involves being quiet and calm in the woods, paying close attention to the natural world.
During this time, your guide may offer you invitations to help awaken your senses and mindfully connect to nature.
A very brief history
Shinrin yoku originated in Japan in the 1980s. It was introduced by the government to help its city dwellers deal with the stresses of modern life.
Since then, lots of medical data has been collected to study the effects of shinrin yoku. Today it continues to be socially prescribed in Japan, recognised as a therapeutic intervention for mental and physical health.
Scientific research from Japan and elsewhere, point to impressive benefits to our health and wellbeing from forest bathing. Here are some of them. Forest bathing can help –
- Boost our immune system by increasing our Natural Killer (NK) cells – a type of white blood cell that kill off infected cells and tumour forming cells. This effect of forest bathing on raised NK cell levels can last for many days after the walk.
- Reduce our blood pressure and levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
- Improve the length and quality of sleep
- Improve heart rate variability
- Reduce tiredness and increase energy levels
- Reduce stress, which can be beneficial for ailments that are exacerbated by high stress levels
- Reduce feelings of anxiety, tension and anger, while increasing positive mood states
- Reduce feelings of depression, including rumination thinking
- Improve cognitive performance, concentration & memory
- Increase creativity, clarity and insight
- Increase levels of nature connection, which are positively associated with increases in compassion and pro-environment attitudes
Something in the air
Some of these benefits have been attributed to airborne chemicals that are released by the trees – called phytoncides. These are natural oils, produced by the tree to protect itself from disease.
Spending time in the woods and breathing in these tree essential oils not only lifts our mood but gives a boost to our health too.
Rest and digest
Further, forest bathing activates the ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic nervous system, restoring our body to calm.
This is in contrast to our sympathetic nervous system that readies our bodies for ‘fight or flight’ – flooding our bodies with stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Many aspects of modern life can activate this stress response, which over time can have an adverse impact on our physical and mental health.
Forest bathing reduces this ‘fight or flight’ state and helps us move to a ‘rest and digest’ state, enabling us to relax and recover.
Want to give it a try?
I guide regular forest bathing walks. I also offer walks and nature connection activities for organisations, groups and families. These can be a wonderful way to relax, connect and recharge.
Check out my current events, or get in touch with me about guiding a forest bathing walk for your group or organisation – email@example.com