I had noticed for several years the therapeutic effect a walk in the forest had on me. When I recently read an article on ‘forest bathing’, I gained a name for the phenomena.
The Japanese have formalized the forest’s spa-like atmosphere with a name, ‘shinrin-yoku’, which means “to let nature enter your body through all five senses”. In English, the term ‘forest bathing’ is used.
Like an freshly-scented bubble bath, the forest relaxes and calms you. Before some of the essential oils we use for Aromatherapy harvested, they are found in the barks of trees and other plants. This may account for the wonderful scent of the forest. I love the mixture of pine, violets, Solomon’s Seal, Sassafras and oak, that perfumes the forests near my house.
The various studies have shown a measurable effect of lowered blood pressure and low adrenaline levels. This points to the forest having a claiming effect, something I had notice in myself.
A simple walk can lower blood pressure, fight off depression, and reduce stress.
The Japanese embrace the ‘Forest Therapy’ concept so completely that there are 48 official ‘Therapy Trails’ whose forest cover makes up 67% percent of Japan’s landmass.
You may not be able to take a daily forest walk, but you can make sure you step outside and breathe fresh air everyday. It seems that just five minutes of nature immersion is the smallest dosage needed to have a positive effect on you. That can include a quick walk at lunch time, stepping outside for a breath of fresh air (a cigarette break doesn’t count), or my favorite, sitting on a bench the last 15 minutes of lunch time.
You can save a walk in the woods for weekends or evenings after work.
“A Walk in the Woods”‘ American Scientist, July/August 2011, p. 301 – 302.
‘Forest Bathing’, Outside, December 2012, p. 69 – 92.
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