A few months ago, a friend of mine passed up moving into an apartment that seemed perfect for her. “You couldn’t even see a tree from the window,” she explained.
The idea that being in contact with nature makes us feel good won’t be news to anyone.
But what you may not know is that there’s a real discipline, originating from Asia, which studies the benefits of “bathing in forests” from a therapeutic point of view.
What is forest bathing?
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a wellness trend for relaxing and reconnecting with nature. It comes from Japan, but is gaining popularity all over the world.
Slower than a trek and more mystical than a walk, forest bathing is about diving into forests with all five senses. It’s also about practising meditation and breathing exercises surrounded by greenery. It’s about letting the energy of nature flow freely between us and the trees.
What are the benefits of forest bathing?
In the early 1980s, the Japanese Forestry Agency recommended taking walks in the woods to reduce stress. Today, there are 62 forest therapy sites in the country, certified by the Tokyo Forest Therapy Society. This society conducts research and experiments, which have enabled it to draw up a precise list of the beneficial effects of forest bathing:
(images from the official website of the Forest Therapy Society)
- Relieves stressful conditions (defined as tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion)
- Relieves physical pain
- Improves stamina, vitality, and energy
- Improves mood and promotes empathy
- Reduces blood pressure.
How do you take a bath in the forest?
First of all, turn off your phone!
And any other device that might distract you from your dialogue with the forest.
Start walking. Slowly, swinging your arms around your body.
Breathe deeply, trying to distinguish the smells around you. The moss on the rocks? The wild mint? Then focus on colours and sounds. How many different songs can you hear? How many shades of green can you count?
(The Sierra Nevada forest of Santa Marta in northern Colombia, one of the areas where we plant trees)
The Forest Therapy Society recommends a “soak” of at least two hours a week. And if you’re wondering about the best forest to bathe in, ancient forests are highly recommended. They are the ones with more stories to tell.