The art of Shinrin-yoku or Forest bathing

Even without conscious reasoning we know that we feel more relaxed, calm and rejuvenated after a walk in nature. In Japan they have known this for ages as shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing. It was developed during the early 1980’s to encourage a healthier lifestyle by taking regular walks in specially designated forests. It is now one of the foundations of preventative healthcare and healing in Japanese medicine.

In Japan, forest bathing is acknowledged throughout the country and there are more than 60 Forest Therapy Camps available today. In South Korea and Taiwan Forest Therapy is also widely recognized and last year Germany hosted the first International Congress ‘Forest and Its Potential for Health’. Some 150 Public health specialists, government representatives, forestry experts and other stakeholders from 15 countries participated in the event. The key outcome was a general agreement that Forest Therapy provides essential health benefits and that it should be promoted as an approach for public health and preventive medicine

Forest bathing affects all senses: sight, smell, taste, touch. The experience is designed to open your mind and your body, from walking on small stones to massaging your feet and boost blood circulation to breathing in forest aromas. 

Especially in Japan and South Korea researchers have established a large amount of scientific literature on the health benefits and healing effects of simply spending time in nature and forests.

A study that was carried out across 24 forests in Japan found that when people strolled in a wooded area, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol were reduced by almost 16 percent more than when they walked in an urban environment. The effects were quickly apparent: Subjects’ blood pressure showed improvement after only 15 minutes of the practice. One of the biggest benefits may come from breathing in chemicals called phytoncides that are emitted by trees and plants. Women who spent two to four hours in a forest on two consecutive days saw a nearly 40 percent surge in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells, according to one study. “Phytoncide exposure reduces stress hormones, indirectly increasing the immune system’s ability to kill tumor cells,” says Tokyo-based researcher Qing Li, MD, PhD, who has studied shinrin-yoku extensively and has a special program of Forest Medicine for medical students at Nippon Medical School. Even if you do not live near a forest, studies suggest that just looking at green space, say the trees outside your office window, helps reduce muscle tension and blood pressure. Now, all this research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world. 

Happy Forest Bathing!

 

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 Floortje

Guest post by Floortje - Bylands Inventory Coordinator & Social Media Communications

I am originally from the Netherlands, where I worked for a municipal parks department and the promotion organization for the Dutch Nursery Stock Industry. My husband and I are still in the process of building our garden as we didn’t like all the plant decisions the previous owners made. Besides gardening there are a number of renovations going on in our house. Not to forget our dog and three cats, who keep us more than busy!