Forest Bathing

The Japanese Art of “Forest Bathing” Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” generally involves a leisurely walk in a forest
     By Angela Irish –  President & Co-Founder, OZ Naturals
Hi, I'm Angela Irish, Certified Esthetician and Co-Founder of OZ Naturalsand I want to welcome you to our OZ Naturals weekly newsletter. I hope you enjoy our insights on health, beauty and living a holistic lifestyle.
Have you ever felt restored after a long walk in the woods? Many of us have had that experience, and know intuitively that getting out into nature is good for our mind and body. But the Japanese have actually studied and quantified the restorative effects walking in a forest, given it a name, and even created government policy to encourage citizens to pursue this healthy pastime.
Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” generally involves a leisurely walk in a forest to relax, enjoy nature and breathe in the organic compounds released by the trees.

Although the first images that come to mind when we think of Japan may be the bright lights of Tokyo, Japan is actually a heavily forested country. In 1982, the Japanese government formally launched a program to encourage citizens to take advantage of this natural resource, as a way to reduce stress and lead a healthier lifestyle. There are now 44 accredited shinrin-yoku forests in Japan, and the popularity of the practice continues to grow.

With our hectic lifestyles and urbanized environments, many of us in the West could do well to take an example from this progressive public health policy.

Of course, it makes sense that getting out of a stressful environment and spending time in nature would have therapeutic effects. But now there are scientific studies which have quantified the benefits forest bathing brings to its users. Researchers in Japan conducted experiments to test the effects of forest bathing on mood, stress level and the immune system. They found that subjects who spent 40 minutes walking in a shinrin-yoku forest had improved mood and feelings of vigor, as well as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to control groups who walked 40 minutes in the lab. Even more importantly, another study showed that forest bathing increases the activity of the body’s NK cells, which help the immune system fight cancer.

According to Dr. Qing Li of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine the ideal way to experience forest bathing is to engage all the senses and not overextend oneself physically. Shinrin-yoku is meant to be a relaxing, restorative experience. Here are some tips for trying forest bathing for yourself:

  • Allow 4 hours to cover 3 miles, or two hours for a mile and a half. That’s a very leisurely pace.
  • Bring something to eat or drink, and find a place to sit and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
  • Engage your senses by paying attention to the fragrance of the forest, the sounds of birds or water, and the color of the trees.
For those who can’t find a beautiful pine or cedar forest such as those in Japan, Dr. Li suggests a two hour walk in a city park with trees. That’s within almost everybody’s reach – so consider forest bathing this summer and fall as one of your outdoor activities. The benefits extend far beyond simply taking a walk outdoors!

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