Have you ever heard of Shinrin Yoku? Research studies show that this simple therapy can help to reduce stress, anger, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. In addition, it has been shown to exhibit a positive impact on immune function, cardiovascular health, and metabolic conditions like diabetes.
The English translation of this Japanese term is ‘forest bathing’ and it means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. It has also been described as connecting with nature through the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. It was developed in Japan in the 1980’s, where they currently have 44 accredited Shinrin-Yoku forests that offer this therapy.
A meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Biometeorology revealed that in 6 of the 8 studies analyzed, cortisol levels, a hormonal marker for stress, were significantly lower in the forest bathing group compared to the group exposed to an urban environment. In fact, some of the study participants experienced a drop in cortisol levels only after being informed that they would participate in forest bathing. I suppose this speaks to the power of visualization.
So how can we implement forest bathing into our lives to reduce stress and improve our emotional wellness?
Find a secluded, quiet place with lots of trees and greenery, i.e. hiking trail, backyard, or park
Silence or leave behind any electronic devices to avoid distractions
Spend at least 10 minutes in a green environment to receive the therapeutic benefit
Sit quietly or move slowly so that the peace of nature can be well observed and absorbed
Take in the sounds
Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the phytoncides, essential oils that impact immune function by increasing natural killer cell activity
Forest bathing can act as a great addition to anyone's self-care tool kit. Implementing healthy habits during these uncertain times provides us with greater strength and resilience!
Dr. Aminah Keats