orest bathing is immersing yourself in a forest and appreciating what's around you. Leisurely and mindfully taking in the sounds, smells, textures, fresh air and visual beauty. "Shinrin-yoku", which roughly translates to "forest bathing," was coined in Japan a few decades ago. A beautiful term for the age-old practice of retreating to nature for health and peace. It truly can be considered a form of medicine.
More than a walk
Unsurprisingly studies show that forest bathing reduces stress, and that benefits are from more than just exercise. Compared with a walk in the city, a walk in a forest can better lower blood pressures and reduce circulating stress hormones.[1,2] Maybe it's the calm environment that's easier on our nervous system... In other words, it's relaxing.
The healing scent of forest
Trees release compounds into the air called phytoncides that help protect them from insects and germs. Studies show that these compounds can beneficially reduce our own stress hormones, increase the activity of certain white blood cells (natural killer cells), and increase the expression of anti-cancer proteins.[3,4] We evolved to thrive in a natural environment!
There's a good chance you'll sleep better after a couple hours of walking in a forest. Research suggests forest bathing can help you sleep better and longer, and that you might get better results from exploring in the afternoon rather than the morning.[1,5]
Improved Mental Health
Walking in a forest helps ease tension, stress, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Forests can also improve vigor and reduce fatigue, which seems to be unique compared with other kinds of nature walking. You leave feeling more mentally at ease and relaxed.[1,6]
How to Forest Bathe
Pick a spot!
It doesn't have to be a huge forest. Find somewhere green and peaceful that you'd like to spend a little time. Try to get out among evergreens! The biggest producers of those beneficial phytoncides are evergreen trees including pines, spruce, cedar, and conifers! Bring a friend if you'd like!
Bring your gear.
You want to be comfortable. Bring comfy supportive shoes, sunscreen, water, a snack, a map if needed, and anything you might want for activities... We suggest a yarn project and a journal! You can bring a yoga mat, binoculars, or even a chair. Don't forget to silence your electronic gadgets!
Walk, wander and sit.
To get the benefits it's not about exercise, it's about being in this amazing environment. Wander wherever feels right. Be aimless, be free, but make sure you stay on marked paths and can easily find your way back.
Enjoy the sounds and quietness. Hear the crunching underneath your feet and birdsong overhead. Feel the gentle breezes on your skin. Touch the trees and run some leaves through your fingers. Deeply breathe in the fresh air. Smell the pine and earthy ground. Look around and spot creatures big and small. You can even hug a tree. If you'd like some help staying in the moment, try a meditation app. There might even be some forest therapy guides in your area too... it's a thing!
Stay a While
Expert and researcher Dr. Qing Li says you can see positive effects after 20 minutes, but suggests up to 4 hours.
Wherever there are trees, we are healthier and happier.
-Dr. Qing Li