‘Forest bathing’ is a translation of the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, developed in the 1980s for the good of public health. Recently forest bathing has become popular in the US and the UK with other Japanese lifestyle concepts such as wabi-sabi, the art of imperfection, kanso and danshari.
Forest bathing is basically a form of meditation in the natural world based on the biophilia hypothesis. ‘Forest bathing essentially means taking a leisurely trip to an area of woodland and having moments of stillness,’ says Samantha Lyster of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (rspb.org.uk), which offers forest bathing sessions at various locations around the UK. ‘Listen to the sounds, breathe in the smells and concentrate on the colours. Forest bathing is designed to help people to stop, be still and feel joy.’
Health benefits of forest bathing
Research lists the health benefits of forest bathing sessions (published by the Journal of Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine) such as lower concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol, reduced pulse rates and lessened blood pressure as well as alleviation of depression and even boosting the immune system.
“People like to label things, to give them weight and meaning,” suggests Sarah Ivens Moffett, author of Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways To Embrace Nature For A Happier You (Piatkus). “Forest bathing is something we all instinctively did as children but we lose these natural instincts as we grow up and get weighed down by life. Labelling the idea of reconnecting with nature as ‘forest bathing’ can help set it up in the mind as a self-care practice, like meditation, yoga or a good night’s sleep.”
Green spaces also slow down cognitive decline and simple walks in the park help keep your memory sharp. Researchers at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health monitored 6500 people aged 45 to 68 over ten years, testing verbal and mathematical reasoning, verbal fluency and short-term memory. They found that people who live near green spaces or parks had a 4.6% smaller decline in score compared to those in am ore built-up area.
How to do forest bathing
- Switch off your mobile and start your relaxation forest bathing for at least 20-30 minutes, and gradually work your way up to two hours.
- You can sit down and relax or walk slowly, taking small steps to appreciate the environment of the forest and connect with the forest and nature as part of spiritual feng shui.
- Focus on deep breaths to absorb the extra oxygen and negative ions in the forest which will trigger the endorphin effect and biophilia effect.