Much like the innate understanding that laughter is good for the soul and meditation is good for the mind, it feels laughably obvious that being surrounded by trees and walking under living canopies is healing. But now, we have the science to prove what so many poets and people have always known to be true.
In the 1980s Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” was developed in Japan as a form of preventative healthcare. “The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved” (shinrinyoku.org). The large body of research listing the positive effects of Shinrin-Yoku has caught the attention of people all over the world. While previously only a part of Japanese medicine, forest bathing is now spreading all across the world.
The beauty of forest bathing or forest therapy is that it is free. Forests are bursting with the antidotes for some of life’s most common poisons. According to shinrinyoku.org, “many trees give off organic compounds that support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system's way of fighting cancer.” The scientifically proven effects of shinrin-yoku cover many branches of health -- from reducing blood pressure to improving sleep to increasing the ability to focus, even in children with ADHD.
Shinrin-yoku is just one more tree in the forest of reasons why we need to protect this planet and its wildlife and wilderness.
Recently, LiveScience wrote that: “An estimated 18 million acres of forest, which is roughly the size of the country of Panama, are lost each year, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.” Losing forests means losing species (according to National Geographic, 70% of the world’s species call forests home), releasing more carbon dioxide and water vapor into the atmosphere (disrupting weather patterns), and soil erosion.
Losing forests also means losing free therapy sessions.
Can you imagine life without hiking through nature--a life without the orchestra of the wilderness? Henry David Thoreau wrote: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
It is vital that we preserve wildness, the wilderness, and in turn, ourselves.
More from shinrin-yoku.org
The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:
Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells.
Reduced blood pressure
Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
Increased energy level
Just as impressive are the results that we are experiencing as we make this part of our regular practice:
Deeper and clearer intuition
Increased flow of energy
Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
Increased flow of eros/life force
Deepening of friendships
Overall increase in sense of happiness
Opening our senses to nature also develops our intuition. We learn to contact in new ways the world around us.
"We recognize that forest therapy approaches such as Shinrin-yoku have roots in many cultures throughout history.
John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.” He is one of many people who we include when we think about the origins of the practice."