Let’s talk about how forest bathing can improve your health
Do you take nature baths regularly? If you’ve ever spent time in on a hiking trail, forest, or park that is densely populated with trees you may be able to attest to the relaxing feeling you have walking or running outdoors. You may feel as you experience the sounds of nature, the fresh air, the trees that there’s something intangible that is revitalizing. Well it turns out, there is now research that suggests that exposure to nature, and forests in particular, can have remarkable positive benefits on human health.
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture jumped on nature bathing full force in the 1990s when their coined the term Shinrin-yoku, which literally means forest bathing! Lately Shinrin-yoku has garnered more attention for its ability to increase relaxation and reduce stress. Some researchers say that the health benefits of forest bathing may be attributed to organic compounds called phytoncides that are given off by plants and allow those who breathe them in to achieve a more relaxed state. Others say benefits may come from the pure wonder and awe one feels when immersed in nature which increases the practice of gratitude. Not only can regular time in natural environments promote positive emotions, lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure, improve working memory, and increase feeling of being alive it also has been associated with increasing physical and mental energy, and accelerating the healing process when disease is present in the body.
Shirin-yoku, which is considered a form of nature therapy, has been shown by research to have therapeutic effects on immune functioning by causing an increase in natural killer cells, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, and mental relaxation which is key for reducing stress levels. Although the reasons are not necessarily definitive, we do know that taking a bath in nature is a good thing. So leave your swimming trunks at home, grab your trail sneakers, and a hoodie and try to find some time to hit a trail. You can go alone, with groups, or even find a forest that has guided walks. During your experience it’s important to not treat your time in the forest as a workout. Try to leave all of your technological devices behind, observe as much of terrain around you, breathe deeply, and even take some time to sit at some point during your experience. For maximum benefits try to practice forest bathing at least once a week. Your health: mind, body, and spirit will say thank you.
To learn more about the safety of Shinrin Yoku check out our dedicated page!
Hansen, M. M., Jones, R., & Tocchini, K. (2017). Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8), 851. doi:10.3390/ijerph14080851
Park BJ, Tsunetsugu Y, Kasetani T, Kagawa T, Miyazaki Y. The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environ Health Prev Med. 2010 Jan;15(1):18-26. doi: 10.1007/s12199-009-0086-9. PubMed PMID: 19568835;
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2793346.
Tsunetsugu, Y., Park, B.-J., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku” (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), 27–37. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12199-009-0091-z