Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses. This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest.
Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. Now their research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.
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.
We have always known this intuitively. But in the past several decades there have been many scientific studies that are demonstrating the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. For example, 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 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
- Reduced stress
- Improved mood
- Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
- Increased energy level
- Improved sleep
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
- Overall increase in sense of happiness
Make a plan based on your daily physical activity and do not get tired during the forest bathing.
Leave behind your phone, camera or any other distractions, so that you can be fully present in the experience.
Leave behind your goals and expectations. Wander aimlessly, allowing your body to take you wherever it wants.
Smell the fresh air and the evergreens. Get close and smell the flowers.
Pause from time to time, to look more closely at a leaf or notice the sensation of the path beneath your feet. See the trees, the plants growing under foot, the fungi, moss and lichen. Look up, down and all around for animals hiding under rocks, in burrows, and on tree branches. Notice the colors, shapes and textures.
Find a comfy spot to take a seat and listen to the sounds around you. Hear the rustling of leaves, the bird songs, or running water. See how the behavior of the birds and other animals changes when they become used to your presence.
If you feel thirsty, you can drink water/tea anywhere and anytime you like.
Taste the fruits, pine needle or gingko leaf tea. (Be sure to accurately identify any plant you are going to taste.)
If you go with others, make an agreement to resist talking until the end of the walk, when you could gather to share your experiences.
If it is possible, it is better to take a hot spring bath (a spa) after the forest bathing.