By Gillian B
Shinrin-Yoku is the Japanese practice of ‘Forest Bathing’, which includes a leisurely visit to the forest embraced by all the senses. Forest bathing is regarded for its positive effects on stress, overall health, and well-being.
Dr. Qing Li is considered to be one of the world’s foremost experts on shinrin-yoku, he explains the benefits of being out in the forest. In a 2007 study, researchers at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Medicine found that “forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress. Forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.”
According to those findings, Li says walking in forests may prevent the onset of chronic illnesses like cancers, reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones. Li also credits shinrin-yoku with creating calming psychological effects through changes observed in parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves. It has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue and feelings of emotional confusion.
As you have probably experienced for yourself, getting out into the forest is nourishing for every layer of your being, mind, body, and soul. Shinrin-yoku simply puts this into a practice, which like all practices, is best when regularly done.
The purpose of this practice is to absorb the forest’s healing energy and to purify and recharge your energy field. Forest bathing is so healing because our systems naturally want to harmonize with and sync to the higher vibration of nature.
When we are in a stressed state, we are very contracted, stagnant and blocked off from the flow of life. The higher vibrations of nature are expansive and can undo the effects of stress.
Getting out of our homes and offices and into the fractal patterns of nature has a profoundly calming effect that takes you out of your head and into the present moment. Explore the forest with child-like wonder, have fun and play!
How to Bathe in the Forest:
1) Go to a Forest.
2) Walk slowly.
3) Breathe Deeply.
4) Engage all your senses.
Forest Bathing Tips:
- Go untethered; leave cell phones, cameras, and distractions behind.
- Check in with your body and let yourself be guided by where you feel drawn to go.
- Go barefoot for as much of your walk as possible (where it is safe of course).
- Engage full body listening. Look at all the different colors and patterns, smell the different plants, saps and flowers, hear the leaves blowing in the wind and the animals playing in the distance, pick up and feel the different textures of leaves.
- Go alone but if you go with someone else, make an agreement not to talk and perhaps go your separate ways. You can meet at the end of your walk and share your experience.
- Sit quietly and enjoy the sacred spaces that call you. There is nothing better than a forest meditation!
So, it may come as no surprise, but one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve the quality of your life is getting a regular dose of Vitamin N (nature)! Just like you schedule your meetings and appointments, be sure to include time in nature in your busy week to help you stay balanced and centered.