Have You Heard Of Forest Bathing? Helping People Heal. Helping Forests Heal. 🎥
Nature therapy, sometimes referred to as ecotherapy, forest therapy, forest bathing, grounding, earthing, Shinrin-Yoku or Sami Lok, is a practice that describes a broad group of techniques or treatments to use nature to improve mental or physical health.
Spending time in nature has various physiological benefits such as relaxation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_therapy)
So what is Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku) then exactly?
The Japanese have known for years that spending mindful time in the woods is beneficial for body and soul. Now western doctors agree!
“Shinrin-yoku began in the 1980s, in response to a massive health crisis caused by stress and overwork - people were literally working themselves to death in Japan. Researchers discovered that a chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, can boost the immune system and promote the production of ‘natural killer’ cells, which can help ward off cancer. The Japanese government has now incorporated it into the country’s health program.” (https://www.heartwoodnaturebathing.com/about)
Forest Bathing is good for both physical and mental wellbeing. It is proven to reduce stress hormone production, improve feelings of happiness and free up creativity, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and accelerate recovery from illness. Created as a way to combat urban stressors and city life, forest bathing is a practice that asks you to observe your surroundings using your five senses (Humans have five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste). By paying close attention to the natural world, forest bathing encourages people to slow down in order to foster a connection to something outside of themselves.
Connecting with nature makes us healthier and happier people - something that few of us nature lovers would argue with. There are a growing number of studies and campaigns bringing forward evidence about the importance of our connection to nature. Exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, but contributes to our physical wellbeing, reduced blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones.
Everything that humans have needed to survive and thrive was provided by the natural world such as food, water, medicine, materials for shelter and even the natural cycles; for instance the climate, changing seasons and nutrients.
Yet, we have disconnected ourselves from the natural world, that it is easy and often convenient to forget that nature remains as giving as ever, although it is vanishing rapidly. Through the rise of technology and industry we have distanced ourselves superficially from nature, but it has not changed our reliance on the natural world. Most of what we use and consume on a daily basis remains the product of variable interactions within nature and our environment; with many of those interactions being more and more destroyed.
The development of urban areas has reduced natural environments globally on a big scale. Have we lost our affection for nature? Not according to studies focusing on “environmental psychology”, which show that humans still have positive reactions to nature and natural environments; in fact rather an instinctive “biophilia”. For example, one of the most famous studies in this field demonstrated that people who were hospitalised recovered more quickly with a view of trees than with a view of a brick wall. (For more information please visit: https://www.psychologistworld.com/issues/environmental-psychology)
So why not try forest bathing? Look for a guided tour near you.
Nature Bathing is a trauma-informed practice; nothing is compulsory and participants always have full agency over their bodies.
These 5 tips will help you to (re) discover the healing power of the forest for yourself:
- Experience instead of thinking. That means allowing feelings and perceptions and discovering the forest in all its elements.
- Forest bathing is primarily about relaxation. Therefore, take breaks as soon as you feel too exerted and you get tired from walking.
- Switching off is difficult if you always keep the time in mind. Try to be in the present moment instead of going through the day's planning for tomorrow.
- Avoid distractions and disruptive factors. Therefore, your mobile phone should definitely remain in offline mode.
- Concentrated breathing is very effective in releasing stress and worry. With a little practice you can even increase your breathing volume and relax more quickly with conscious breathing techniques.
Nature Bathing walks can be profoundly healing. They can restore a sense of calm and clarity, awaken imagination, reconnect with your inner child and the feeling of being more connected to oneself and the world around us. They can help us remember that we are nature, and nature is us.
🎥 Forest Bathing - Shinrin-Yoku - Healing in Nature
(Short documentary 19 Oct2016 “Nitin Das”)
"Healing Forest is a journey to discover the magical healing powers of nature. To find ways to reconnect people with nature through stories, films and walks.
The aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal."
"Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf." 🌿
- Albert Schweitzer
Our contributors have taken many nature photos over the years – sometimes too many, no doubt 😉. They can be accessed from the top menu under ‘Galleries’. We hope you enjoy them and get inspired to enjoy nature yourself. Stay safe and healthy!
The Guardian, June 2019 (viewed 08.12.2021)
Heartwood Nature Bathing, Brisbane/Australia (viewed 08.12.2021)