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Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Wellness Practice of Forest Bathing

Published 9:41 am UTC February 11, 2020

Shinrin-Yoku, a Japanese practice that literally translates as “Forest Bath” could soon be a prescribed treatment by British doctors.

Shinrin-yoku is a form of nature therapy that originated in Japan in the 1980s. It has caught on in Europe and the U.S being referred to as “Forest Bathing” or Forest Therapy. Studies have shown that this act of soaking in nature has proven to be beneficial to our health.

Using mindfulness to approach nature has become a practice in not only Japan, but forests worldwide, which include guides and certification programs. Several resorts and spas offer forest bathing as well. You can practice these mindfulness techniques on your own, but a guide can help deepen your discipline.

Unlike hiking where there is a set destination or goal in mind, forest bathing is meant to be slow with the aim of making time for breathing exercises and focusing. Using these techniques to connect with nature has been known to reduce blood pressure and lift moods.  

How can we begin to practice forest therapy? For those looking to try out forest bathing, it is recommended to begin with a leisurely walk. During your walk you may focus on and gravitate toward a tree or plant, here you can begin taking deep breathes. Close your eyes and tune into the smells and sounds that surround your space. Eventually you may want to choose a safe place to lay down or remove your shoes if weather permits. Touching leaves, bark, moss or even smooth stones can create a physical connection with your environment.

What if you live nowhere near a forest? For urbanites that cannot regularly retreat into the trees may find therapy in their local park or green space. The key is to find areas where nature does have a presence and you can use your senses to connect to it.

The point of forest bathing and mindfulness is to detach from gadgets, screens and other things that distract us or cause stress. Therefore, it is important to keep the mobile switched off- if you need a navigation tool, rely on the classic old-fashioned folded map rather than a screened device.

Studies have shown that like all therapy, forest therapy does not increase resilience in just one go, try planning to visit nature monthly, then possibly bi-weekly or weekly if possible. It is also important to try to make mindfulness a part of your daily routine whether you can escape to nature or not. Forest bathing is a great way for us to experience how effective mindfulness can be and from there we can hopefully build it into our daily routine.