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Forest Therapy

Forest bathing is a mental and physical wellbeing exercise that emerged in Japan in the 1980s, and is a tool of Forest Therapy. The Japanese name, shinrin-yoku, can be directly translated into the English words “forest” and “bath.” This exercise, as its name suggests, involves immersing yourself in nature and connecting to your surroundings through sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.

Therapeutic effects of forest bathing

Forest bathing is not only a relaxing and peaceful activity to partake in, but it also has many therapeutic effects. Spending time in a forest can provide individuals with significant psychological and physiological improvements such as anxiety, stress relief, decreased blood pressure and heart rate, pain management, and improvements in certain mood disorders.

Additionally, scientific studies have identified that forest bathing may result in improved immune function. This increased immune response is thought to be caused by human inhalation of natural chemicals released by plants, called phytoncides, which are emitted by trees in order to protect themselves from germs and pathogens.

Forest therapy

Forest therapy uses the act of forest bathing to target specific psychological and physiological health issues. Forest therapy practitioners work with the forest in order to help individuals connect with nature and experience the benefits nature provides. This type of treatment often works well in addition to standard treatments that are prescribed for specific illnesses. Check out the Forest Therapy Institute to find guides and opportunities to partake in forest therapy. This website helps you to find forest therapy programs that are based in different locations around the world.

Forest therapy has become a large part of Japan’s national public health program. Forest therapy was first introduced to Japan’s national public health program in 1982 and has been thriving ever since! The Japanese government has designated 48 forest therapy trails for people to make use of. People who go to their doctors with complaints of illnesses often receive prescriptions to go walk these trails as part of their treatments. How cool is that?!

How to forest bathe

There are a few simple steps you can take in order to get the most out of your forest bathing experience

  1. Find a wooded area suitable to forest bathing. Some examples include a nearby park, hiking trail, secluded forest, or even your backyard.
  2. Leave unnecessary and distracting belongings behind.
  3. Slow down your movements. Let your body guide you, whether that means meandering through the forest or taking a moment to rest and be still.
  4. Use your five senses to focus on your surroundings. Take mental note of the birds chirping and leaves rustling in the wind. Feel the forest floor beneath your feet and smell the earthy scents that surround you. Engage with the natural elements that attract your attention.

You can make use of these steps if you wish to partake in forest therapy on your own or with a designated forest therapy program near you. Take note of how you feel before and after your forest bathing experience. You may find that you benefit significantly and want to incorporate it into your self care and wellness routine.

In the end, Forest Therapy and Forest Bathing helps us to connect with nature and with our own bodies, and there is plenty of evidence that both of these activities help us cope with stress and feel better. Go and enjoy whatever time that you can afford to spend in the natural world.

Remember that Forest Therapy can be done in any small wooded area. You don’t need to drive a long distance or make it a difficult chore to get there. Finding ways to engage in nature near to your home and on a regular basis is more important. For more ideas on how to make this happen, listen to my podcast Episode 28 How to Get Active in Nature in Under an Hour!

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