What is Shinrin-yoku and why is it good for you?
What is Shinrin-yoku?
Shinrin-yoku AKA forest bathing is the Japanese practice of bathing your senses in the beauty of a forest, woods, bush or parkland. It was formalised by Japan’s Forest Agency in the early 1980’s as a therapeutic practice.
Plants emit anti microbial volatile compounds that we naturally inhale when in their presence. These boost our immune system by elevating our natural killer cells. These can remain elevated for up to seven days after exposure to trees and plants.
Studies have found that just being amongst trees and plants can lower cortisol levels (your stress hormone), pulse rate, sympathetic nerve activity (your fight and flight system) and blood pressure. It can increase parasympathetic nerve activity, that is, slow down your heart rate.
Mental / emotional benefits
Happiness and joy
Research has found that spending time in nature releases hormones that promote feelings of happiness, joy and mental wellbeing.
Creative problem solving
One study has shown that after three days immersed in nature increased creative problem solving by 50%.
Attention and concentration
Spending time in nature environments can improve attention and concentration especially in children with ADHD and can help relieve anger, fatigue and sadness.
How to Forest bathe
Research has shown that at least 120 minutes a week in nature is linked with good health and well-being and this can be broken up into several short periods or one long one. Take on a mindfulness mindset when amongst trees.
Firstly, inhale and exhale slowly a few times to relax.
Secondly, contemplate some questions around your senses:
What do you see?
What trees and plants can you see? What colours and textures are visible?
What can you hear?
Leaves and twigs crunching, wind rustling through leaves, birds, insects, animals, or silence?
What can you smell?
Flora and fauna scents?
What can you feel?
Leaves, branches, stones, soil, moss? What is the texture like?
How is the environment making you feel?
Can you breathe in the scent of the trees?
Over to you?
Schedule time in your calendar to get amongst trees and plan where you'll go.
Get your resources ready: walking shoes, waterproof coat, gloves, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, water bottle, flask with a hot drink, snacks, map and a camera.
If using your phone, turn off all your data to truly have a mindful experience.