Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Medicine of Forest Bathing

Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese practice of forest bathing, a therapeutic technique prescribed to patients in Japan to help lower their blood pressure and stress levels, alleviate depression and anxiety, increase immune and autonomic function, improve sleep, and boost mood, creativity, energy, and concentration. Many studies have been done throughout the world to test the efficacy of this technique with significant positive results proving it to be a viable form of preventive care and auxiliary treatment.

Japanese culture greatly values natural life, hence the cohesion of people with nature is a fundamental part of society. Though with 8 billion people in the world and 56% of them living in cities, the realistic ability of people to connect with nature without intention is low. Many would argue it is the disconnection from nature itself which is causing global rises in blood pressure, anxiety, and stress. But, taking a forest bath of any length of time can help remedy these ailments.

A forest bath is exactly what it sounds like, an immersion into a forest. Letting the sounds, smells, sights and feels of nature wash over you and clear your mind. It is essentially a form of meditation in nature. Whether you decide to walk or sit, take in all the sights or close your eyes, spend 15 minutes or 4 hours, it will have a measurable impact on your health. It can be helpful to try and clear your mind as you start your bath, though, the power and beauty of nature usually takes over and clears your mind as you get going.

The important part of this is to actively try and engage your senses as you go through your forest bath. Notice what you are hearing, the wind rustling in the leaves, birds singing in the trees, chipmunks skittering across the forest floor. Take note of the rich smells in the woods: decaying leaves, fresh cool air, essential oils secreted by the surrounding trees. During your bath something may catch your eye: the flash of a cardinal’s red tail feathers, a brightly colored mushroom, a battle between two insects. All of these experiences are treats from nature and help you to remove yourself from the stresses of your life therefore lowering your cortisol and increasing your mental space.

To get the most out of your forest bath here are a few recommendations: allot yourself as much time as you are able because the longer the bath, the longer the positive health results linger, practice a walking forest bath to benefit from the gentle work-out as well, and lastly, studies show that benefits increase when you separate yourself from technology, so try leaving your phone in your pocket, turning your ringer off and focusing on what presently surrounds you. Try it for yourself as you enter the Woodland Garden and explore the rest of the Botanical Gardens. We hope nature refreshes and revitalizes you!

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