It’s just like taking a nice, long soak in the tub. Sort of.
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is the Japanese practice of basking in the woods for improved health and well-being. It sounds ancient, but it was developed by Japan’s Forest Agency in the 1980s as a way to get people outside and into Japan’s abundant public forests.
And now there is scientific evidence that it has real health benefits.
Step into the nearest forest, take a few deep, calming breaths, clear your mind, and then proceed to luxuriate in your surroundings for an hour or two. This isn’t about getting somewhere, finishing first, or burning calories; it’s about tuning in to the sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings, and allowing yourself to be healed.
Listen to the birds chirping, the water trickling, the leaves rustling… Smell the breeze, the flowers, the wet soil beneath your feet… See the tree in front of you, the pattern of its bark, the shape of its leaves…
Now you’re forest bathing.
Do this for an hour or two and Japanese researchers have shown that you can:
– lower your blood pressure (reduce stress),
– reduce your feelings of depression and hostility, and
– improve your sleep patterns.
Of course these are all wonderful benefits, but they are hardly unexpected — this type of practice is essentially a walking meditation.
More fascinating is the research that shows you can strengthen your immune system just by breathing in forest air. Trees emit aromatic chemical compounds called phytoncides, and when you breathe them in, they stimulate your body’s immune response. So not only do plants strengthen our bodies from the inside (antioxidants), they help us from the outside, too.
The next time you feel like you need a little boost, find a forest, take plenty of deep breaths, and hang out for a while. It seems this is one place where breathing in chemicals is a good thing.
For more info:
– There is a .org devoted to the practice of forest bathing. http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/
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