After yoga, the new wellness trend sweeping the world is the practice of forest therapy in Japan, also known as Shinrin-yoku. The therapy involves soaking up the sights, smells, and sounds of nature with the intention of improving physiological and psychological health.
The term Shinrin-yoku literally means forest bathing from Japanese culture, having a long tradition of living harmoniously with nature.
What is Forest Therapy or Shinrin Yoku:
The term Shinrin-yoku was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982 and also differs from other fitness trends.
Ben Page, a certified forest therapy guide, who founded Shinrin Yoku in Los Angeles stated that, “A nature walk’s objective is to provide informational content and a hike is to reach a destination, but a Shinrin-yoku walk’s objective is to give participants an opportunity to slow down, appreciate things that can only be seen or heard when one is moving slowly, and to take a break from stress.”
Shinrin Yoku Training is considered to be so effective that it is covered by insurance in Japan. It is proved in numerous studies, including a 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine.
This study is indicative of data use from field experiments conducted in 24 forests across Japan and also discovered that subjects who took part in forest bathing had low blood pressure and heart rate. They also had lower concentrations of stress hormone cortisol than in those who walked in a city setting.
Another study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology discovered that when participants took a three day and two-night trip to several forest areas in Japan, it boosted their immunity. The blood samples taken before and after the trip revealed that the number of white blood cells and other immune system markers were significantly higher in comparison to forest bathing.
How to Try Forest Bathing:
- Leave all your digital devices behind so that you can be fully present in the experience. Do not be concerned with how many calories you are burning or how long your hike was.
- Roam around and allow your curiosity to be your guide.
- Pause from time-to-time to admire the tree bark or a leaf floating downstream.
- Select a good spot to sit comfortably and listen to the sounds around you. Notice the behavior of birds or squirrels when you sit still and they become used to your presence. Watch the insects travel on the ground. Close your eyes for a few minutes and listen to the peaceful sounds around you.
- If you’re strolling with a friend or group, minimize the chats. Wait until the end of the walk to share your observation together.
Benefits of Forest Therapy:
Here are some of the benefits of Forest Therapy to even make you look younger, prettier, and a nicer person, too.
- Reconnecting with nature allows you to focus on your mental, physical, and spiritual gains.
- Other than boosting immunity, creativity, and allowing you to live longer, there is an overwhelming need to reach out to your happiness from strolling in the woods.
- Studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that being exposed to restorative environments like forest, lake, and beach restores mental energy, and the natural beauty inspires feelings of admirations, giving a secondary brain boost.
- Studies prove that simply looking at the pictures of nature can increase our positive thinking. So think about switching the lock screen photo on your phone with a favorite nature photo.
- One study in Environmental Science and Technology found a connection between decreased anxiety and bad mood while walking in the moods. While others have also reported taking a walk outdoors should be prescribed by doctors as a supplement to existing treatments for depressive symptoms.
- The Journal of Affective Discovered released analysis which showed how every green natural environment including forests can improve mood and self-esteem. This is considered to be an element for personal happiness, and the presence of water also makes a positive effect on happiness.
- Researchers at the University of Essex study people exercising outside and found just five minutes of physicality in a green space can lift spirits and self-confidence. It can also lessen mental stress to a great extent.
Forest Therapy Centers to Consider:
Want to dip a toe in the forest therapy interest group?
Here are the forest therapy centers to consider:
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1. Blackberry Farm, Tennessee:
The farm sits on 4,200 acres of lovely pastures and woods in the Great Smoky Mountains. The secluded farm hotel includes high-intensity hikes, runs, forest yoga, and meditation based on the principles of Shinrin-yoku. Blackberry farm opened The Wellhouse in mid-2014. It is a comprehensive spa and wellness centre with special attention on Japanese Forest Bathing.
2. L’Auberge de Sedona:
The luxury resort is one of the most stunning natural resorts in the Southwest and makes the most out of the outdoors with full round alfresco activities like stargazing, bird-watching, and forest bathing. There are free hour-long forest bathing excursions that are held on the property every week but private sessions can also be arranged.
The high altitude, surrounding Ponderosa pines and Sedona’s temperatures are cooler in comparison with other Arizona destinations.
3. The Lodge at Woodloch, Poconos:
The upscale resort features five miles of nature trails throughout its woodland property. The lodge introduced its forest bathing experiences and became the first resort to launch forest bathing to the U.S. The retreat center offers free weekly sessions by staff members who are newly certified by the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy.
4. Trout Point Lodge:
The lodge is located next to Nova Scotia’s largest protected wilderness areas, The Tobeatic Trout Point, which offers forest bathing. The luxury resort helps guests disconnect, learn about local ecology, and detoxify. Forest bathing walks are available most days of the week and are also complemented with a forest-side massage and foraging walks for edible treats from the woods.
5. Mayflower Grace:
Mayflower grace is nestled in a rolling farmland and is surrounded by 3000 acres of nature preserve. The boutique hotel and spa offers forest bathing walk. The hotel staff or guide takes guests on a two-hour walk and encourages them to connect with nature through all their senses. On the return trip, guests are requested to join a silent, walking meditation and share their experiences with the group.
All these obvious reasons are proof enough that the key to practicing Shinrin-yoku is highly beneficial. Even if there are no forests around you, do not give up on the idea. A 2015 Stanford University study revealed that people who strolled in a serene, natural setting, including a public park were less anxious in comparison to those who walked through the city.
There are also other pieces of evidence which suggest that even gazing through natural wonders can lower your stress levels. If you are feeling the tension right now, check out a few breathtaking photos of beautiful landscapes and feel your stress go away.