Forest bathing, or shinrin yoku, is “the Japanese practice of seeking a deep and meditative connection with nature,” and was mentioned briefly by Candice Kumai in Kintsugi Wellness. It seemed like a fascinating concept, and definitely something I’d be interested in, so when I saw this book, I had to pick it up.
Shinrin Yoku, by Yoshifumi Miyazaki, delves into the scientific research behind forest therapy (what the media has been, and therefore what we are, calling forest bathing). The author has been a forest researcher for many years, and has conducted studies with control groups and groups exposed to forest therapy. His studies show that there are physiological benefits of forest bathing.
Human bodies are evolved for nature, not civilization; civilization has been around for a very short time relative to human existence. Modern life, especially in large cities, is full of action and constant stress, without allowing our body time to rest. So it’s important for us to get back to nature to recharge from our hectic modern lives.
Forest Therapy Activities
There are many things you can do to reap the benefits of forest therapy. The purpose of forest therapy is to calm overstimulation of the mind and to promote relaxation. What one person finds relaxing might not be relaxing to another; therefore, it is highly personalized to the individual.
Because forest bathing is so popular in Japan, there are many companies that take you on forest therapy excursions. Some of the activities they provide include:
- Takigyo: seated meditation under a waterfall
- Cherry blossom viewing
- Tea picking
- Forest concerts
- Horse riding, dog therapy
DIY Forest Bathing
But you don’t need to sign up for a forest therapy excursion to reap the benefits, because there are no specific activities you need to do to take advantage of forest bathing. Forest therapy is about being present in nature, and relaxing away from all the daily tasks we have to do. Here are some ideas for doing it yourself:
- Walk silently and mindfully through a forest or grove. Be sure to turn your phone off, and engage all your senses. Be aware of your body, how your muscles move with every step you take. What your mental and emotional state is. Be aware of your environment: how the ground feels beneath your feet, the sounds of nature, the smells, the temperature.
- Have a picnic at the park. Mindfully eat and enjoy the food you brought. Lie down on the blanket (I’m assuming you brought a blanket to a picnic, but if you’re using a park bench/table, that’s cool too) and watch the clouds.
- Join an outdoor meditation or yoga class. You don’t have to forest bathe alone.
- Take your creative work or hobbies outdoors. Bring a notebook, drawing pad, camera, etc., to the park or on a hike. Or work with natural material, like doing woodwork.
Bringing the Forest Closer
If you don’t live near a forest, you can find nature in the city. Many cities have parks scattered throughout, and you can usually find trees planted along the sidewalk.
You can also incorporate natural elements in your home. Wood furniture (untreated wood has better benefits than treated wood, i.e., more natural) or wood decorations can do the trick. Or indoor and outdoor plants.
Essential oils are also very beneficial. Pick the ones you like best (again, therapy, in general, is highly personalized), and put a few drops in a diffuser, in a bath, or even in your laundry.
This book has beautiful pictures that inspire you to get out immediately and go to the park. The author presents a very comprehensive study of forest therapy, from all the different ways we can practice forest therapy and incorporate it in our lives, to all the scientific research performed to back up the results of forest therapy.
I personally enjoy being out in nature; I go hiking regularly, and London is my favorite city, for all its parks. Forest bathing is a more intentional approach to enjoying nature; I definitely intend on being more mindful the next time I go hiking. (And picking a more forest-y hike!)
What do you think about forest bathing? Is this something you can incorporate in your life?