Originating from Japan, Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing is becoming an effective healing practice among health-conscious people around the world. Forest bathing doesn’t really mean to bath in the forest but actually means to spend some quality time in the forest while strolling, breathing, and relaxing at the same time. This type of forest therapy is known to have existed during the 1980s and has become an integral part of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Back in the ancient times, kings like Cyprus-the Great built enchanting gardens in the urban capital of Persia some 2500 years ago for his subjects to enjoy the tree shades. Besides, using gardens as a typical decor, some people in countries like Morocco build gardens in their outdoor spaces in order to enjoy the rejuvenating effect of the plants and trees.
Effects of Forest Bathing
Several research works have been conducted in regard to the shinrin-yoku as to measure its efficiency and effects on human health. The research reports revealed that forest bathing has therapeutic effects on the cardiovascular system (relating to hypertension/coronary artery disease); immune system (increase of natural killer cells/ cancer prevention); respiratory system (allergies and respiratory disease); depression and anxiety (mood swings and stress); mental relaxation (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and human feelings of ‘awe’ (increase in gratitude and selflessness).
With the fast changing world, advancement in information technology and urbanization across many countries, the global human health is becoming more and more fragile. People are now experiencing more stress at work due to the fierce market competitions. Our lifestyle has drastically changed since the introduction of technology in the fulfillment of the ‘easy and modern life’. According to the World Health Organization report, there will be more than double of diabetes cases in adults by 2025 affecting 300 million people. Cancer will remain one of the leading death causes around the world. Factors such as high-fat diet, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking will lead to an increase of non-communicable diseases.
Studies have shown that those who spend more time in green spaces are more positive, energetic and have a good overall health. There is indeed a positive connection between nature and the human brain. Forest therapy is gradually becoming one of the effective ways to provide physical relaxation, soothe anxiety, relieve depression symptoms, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Additionally, such kind of therapy is showing some promising health recovering on emotion and the neurocognitive functioning. These positive effects are due to the therapeutic elements of forest environments such as the relaxing sound of water streams or waterfalls, chirping of birds, smell of phytoncides (various bactericidal substances obtained from plants) of a forest, the blissful views and relaxing sceneries of nature, including the ability to feel the air breeze over the skin and savour the taste of wild fruits.
Just like the scientist and author, Dr. Qing Li, rightly puts it that shinrin yoku ‘is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.”
There are many ways to bring the practice of shinrin-yoku to your home environment by incorporating air-purifying plants such as bamboo palm, peace lily or keeping small bags of cedarwood shavings around the house just to re-create the ‘forest environment.’ You can read more on this here.