Forest Bathing: 15 Minutes to Good Health

places - forest
Forbidden Drive, Wissahickon Valley Park

“CBS This Morning”: television show had a segment on “forest bathing”. I decided to re-post this blog’s short article from 2013 with research references for those who are interested. 

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 a 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.

Morris Park, Fairmount Park
Morris Park, Fairmount Park

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 noticed 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 every day. 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 lunchtime, 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 lunchtime.

You can save a walk in the woods for weekends or evenings after work.

path in Wissahickon Forest
path in Wissahickon Forest

Further reading
“A Walk in the Woods”‘ American Scientist, July/August 2011, p. 301 – 302.

‘Forest Bathing’, Outside, December 2012, p. 69 – 92.

5 comments

  1. Thanks for reminding us of the beauty and therapeutic effect of nature. I knpw I need to pay more attention to using all five sense to take advantage of all that nature has to offer.

  2. That is so interesting. The next time you come out to Tyler Arboretum I’d love to meet you there and have you tell Chris about nature. The Arboretum is right down the street from our house. We can walk there.

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