Disclaimer: Originally published in December 2017. It is being republished since it still remains an interesting topic till today.
Yes, it is the practice of taking a brisk walk in the lap of nature and has been scientifically proven to have major physical and mental health benefits.
I am talking about shinrin-yoku (森林浴) or the Japanese art of ‘forest bathing’. It is your natural medicine to fight stress, blood pressure and boost immunity.
Shinrin-yoku means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a keystone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
All you have to do is go out in the open, soak up the view and smell of the natural environment and breathe. It will promote both your mental and physiological being.
It’s about relaxing, not accomplishing a task
No, it’s not a trek or an exercise routine in the forest. You don’t necessarily have to accomplish a task or consider it as a weight loss or fitness regime. Just literally hang out with trees. Smell the fresh air and witness nature, bring all your senses to life. It is simply a leisurely walk to rejuvenate yourself.
At the end of the day, all we need is peace which our urbane lifestyle has refused to provide us. Every third person is stressed, work seems droning yet challenging. Monday is dreaded and Sunday seems a far-fetched dream.
So this is basically what we frantically are in need of at this time of our lives.
Shinrin-yoku doesn’t seem complex especially because it’s no gym or yoga but you will need a guide to get a complete sense of Shinrin-yoku before you head out in the forest to do it on your own.
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What does the research say?
Research shows that this Japanese practice of forest bathing has various benefits.
– It boosts immunity and improves overall health.
– It has been time and again pointed out by researchers that walking in the forest lowers the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) considerably.
– Lower cortisol means a lot lesser stress, improved blood pressure, reduced headaches and a healthy heart.
– Shinrin-yoku enhances the natural killer cells which avert diseases.
– Anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and brain-protective benefits from things such as phytoncides (aromatic produce of forests)
– Shinrin-yoku not just enables you to fight diseases as such and makes your health better; it is also helpful for building a better social life. Reduced stress relaxes you and gives you the ability to focus and concentrate better, and build greater relationships.
Which environment is the best suited for forest bathing?
In Japan, a forest therapy base must meet a definite criteria set by the government which also involves the scientific evaluation of the place with regard to its healing powers. In other countries, however, there are no set guidelines.
Therefore you must feel that forest is key to practicing Shinrin-yoku, but if there are no forests around your place, don’t worry either.
A 2015 Stanford University study found that people who strolled in tranquil, natural surroundings which could be a park or a garden were less fretful than when they walked through the concrete city area.
Roger Ulrich at Texas A&M in his study has concluded that “environments with nature-related imagery, such as photographs and paintings on the wall, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and reduce pain.”
Consequently for those who cannot find a perfect real natural setting may as well be happy to know that a virtual setting might really help. Though scientific evaluations might not equate it to a forest-like experience, but it still does have many healing effects.
So, willing to try Shinrin-yoku at your nearby park?
Image credits: Google Images
Sources: Stanford News, TIME, The Guardian
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