The practice of forest bathing has been around for much longer than the name we use now, having ancient roots in Buddhism and Shinto (two major religions in Japan that acknowledge forests as the realm of divine).
In Japan during the early 1980’s, as measure of a public health crisis (to fight the stress that was escalating very quickly), a national health program was launched called Shinrin (forest) Yoku (bathing), which consists in connecting with the forest’s atmosphere, just quietly contemplating the nature around you.
As a way to cope with the challenges our lives inevitably bring, many people turn to alcohol, drugs, expensive medicine and therapies, without ever finding the root cause of their problems.
Our health begins in our brains. When we are submersed in a world with constant noise and distractions, overusing the parts of our brains that deal with information, decision making and stress, without ever giving it space to rest, it won’t function properly and if we don’t act on it, this will bring deeper consequences to our bodies and health in the future.
It’s hard to find an escape to the up and downs that life inevitably brings us, but reconnecting with nature has the power of resetting our brains, so we can step outside, free ourselves from the things that worry us and find some time to be at ease within nature.
Forest bathing means to let nature into your body through the 5 senses. It is far more than just relaxing walks through the forests, being scientifically proven to have a major value in mental and physical health. Besides the benefits of the atmosphere itself, which have been proven to result in amazing changes inside your head, the trees and plants also have a secret: they produce and release essential oils to protect themselves from harmful germs and bugs, called phytoncides. These oils boost our mood, self awareness and immune system; increase energy levels, memory and the ability to concentrate; reduce stress hormones, anxiety and blood pressure; accelerate recovery processes; improve physical relaxation, sleep quality and creativity; deepens intuition; and may even help fight depression.
Researchers have also found that the amount of phyntoncides isn’t what’s making the difference, as even exposure to small amounts can already have a major positive impact.
Studies about Forest Therapy in Japan and South Korea have also revealed that there is a connection between the health of the forest and the health of human beings. It was discovered that forests can develop depression and illness and experience stress, so Forest Bathing is a practice that helps heal forests and human beings together, resulting in a very therapeutic experience.
You just simply need to go somewhere in nature and immerse yourself in it, be among the trees and open all your senses. Don’t focus on the destination or goal, give up control and just wonder, focus on the present moment, walk with an awareness to each step, notice the sounds around you, the scents in the air, the textures, the colours you see and the light shining through the leaves. If something catches your attention, just stop and enjoy that experience.
You don’t have to go somewhere far, if you live in a city simply go to a small park near your home or workplace, enjoy your lunch break in nature or instead of being bored scrolling through your social media, go outside and connect yourself with it.