Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese term for forest bathing or forest therapy. Unlike other ‘Good for you!’ greens, like eating broccoli & kale, you simply immerse yourself in nature.
That sounds simple. But according to this study, people in the USA spend over 90% of their time inside buildings and/or vehicles. Don’t ‘phew’ yet, because people in many other countries are NOT far behind! That explains why health issues are on the rise, and our well-being is in jeopardy.
So what can we do? Just unplug from devices and plug into nature!
In this article, you’ll find the benefits of Shinrin-yoku for your health and well-being.
What’s Shinrin-yoku (森林浴）?
Those three characters above are read shin-rin-yoku in Jaoanese. The first letter ‘shin’ contains three character of small trees and the second one ‘rin’ has two. So together, those two characters form ‘Shinrin’ which means forest, and ‘yoku’ means bathing.
Some people call it forest bathing while others call it forest therapy. It’s a type of natural healing therapy in which you immerse yourself into the forest as if you’re bathing in it.
Although the word was created in 1982 to promote the health of the nation, the values of natural healing power have been embedded in the Japanese culture for centuries.
Unfortunately, the more convenient our life became, the more ancient wisdom has been forgotten. As a result, people were exhausted and stressed…Doesn’t it sound like our world today?
Before moving on to the benefits, take a moment to watch the video in this BBC article for an overview.
Why is Shinrin-yoku good for you?
As Dr. Qing Li mentions in the video, the forest helps us heal and supports our health and well-being. Japanese people believe shinrin-yoku is a proactive natural medicine that can reduce stress-related illnesses.
Forest bathing can help with:
- promoting physical exercise
- slowing down and gaining mindfulness
- boosting your immune system
- sparking curiosity
- maintaining or improving mental health
So let’s look at each benefit.
The most obvious benefit is physical exercise. Once you are in the forest, it keeps your body moving and stretching without you thinking much about it. As you can imagine, you build stronger muscles, bones, and improve your balance. This cardiovascular exercise also helps strengthen your heart and lungs.
Slow Down and Gain Mindfulness
While you’re getting some exercise, nature helps you to slow down and gain mindfulness. When you’re in a hurry, you don’t even pay attention to anything other than time. But when you actually slow down and focus on being present, you start hearing birds, smelling flowers, and seeing a variety of colors.
Nature stimulates your five senses, so you become aware of your surroundings to be present in the moment. Just like the old saying, sometimes you need to “stop and smell the flowers” for mindful living.
Boost Immune System – Shinrin-yoku
Shinrin-yoku also helps you boost your immune system. How? One of the valuable benefits in a forest is the negative ions that helps you to be calm and relaxed. An abundance of negative ions can be found near moving water like creeks, waterfalls, beaches etc.
Like negative ions, a natural chemical called ‘phytoncide’ helps improve your immunity. According to this article, it’s a type of chemical that plants produce to protect themselves from rot, insects, and diseases. While you’re immersed in nature, you also get the benefit!
So whenever you’re in nature, you’re absorbing negative ions and phytoncide which will boost your immune system.
When you are out in the woods, you’ll encounter natural beauty, life-cycles, or a funny creature like this one: a slug in a robin’s egg shell. What’s that? Is it trying to get in or out? Why/how did it get in there? Is it trying to be a snail?
Most likely, you’ll never find the answer, but it keeps you wondering. That curiosity helps you gain problem solving skills that will lead you to creative solutions. Where the world is today, we need more people who can think outside the box.
So all the more reason to immerse yourself in the forest, which sparks your curiosity.
Maintain / Improve Mental Health
Last but not least, shinrin-yoku helps you maintain or improve your mental health. Spending time in nature is therapeutic and reduces your stress.
This study shows that spending a minimum of 2 hours per week in nature increases your happiness. The frequency doesn’t matter as long as you get 2 hours per week, so it can be 20 minutes per day or 2 hours on a weekend. Maybe reduce 20 minutes of screen time each day and go outside instead?
Here’s a story to share. Back in January 2021, my friend and I were overwhelmed and anxtious due to the pandemic. Between that and the gray winter we have, it was just too much to bear. So we had to do something about it.
Long story short, we decided to go for a weekly hike. After a while, we started noticing the positive changes. We were aware of our surroundings and our emotions, so we felt we were in control.
Bathing in the forest is like going to a spa where you get refreshed but even better! How? Because even a small achievement like getting out in nature for two hours a week helps you believe that you can do anything!
Lastly, I want to clarify that you don’t have to make a day trip for forest bathing to get the benefits. It can be anywhere within the city where you can find trees. Many city parks offer treed areas, so go there and touch the trees and talk to them. (BTW this is what I do every morning with my tree friend!)
Understanding all the benefits, it’s a no-brainer to make shinrin-yoku a healthy habit for your well-being. Because when you’re happy, you can make others happy, too! ❤️