Discover Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)
In the 1980s, the Japanese government introduced Shinrin-Yoku – forest bathing – as part of a national health programme. As a country with one of the highest life expectancies on earth - they must be onto something.
Shinrin-Yoku is a simple concept: by spending time in nature you actively indulge your senses, which improves your wellbeing. Essentially it is a meditative practice, as becoming acutely focused and aware of your surroundings is key.
There is no "correct" approach to Shinrin-Yoku. Simply look at the way that light filters between the treetops, where it lands, take in the textures of the natural world and the scents of the air around you, noting when they change.
Resist the urge to whip out your phone to take a snap, and totally disconnect from the digital world.
Forest Medicine expert, Dr Qing Li, explains that the foundations behind forest bathing lay in the idea that humans are fundamentally ‘natural’ creatures. “As we walk slowly through the forest, seeing, listening, smelling, tasting and touching, we bring our rhythms into step with nature. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. And when we are in harmony with the natural world we can begin to heal. Our nervous system can reset itself, our bodies and minds can go back to how they ought to be.” - Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing
Science appears to support his theory. A study that followed almost 500 individuals over three days, including one day spent in the forest, concluded that: “forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress. Accordingly, Shinrin-Yoku may be employed as a stress reduction method, and forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes. Therefore, customary Shinrin-Yoku may help to decrease the risk of psychosocial stress-related diseases.” - Psychological effects of forest environments on healthy adults: Shinrin-Yoku as a possible method of stress reduction, 2007.*
Don't let winter and the dipping temperatures put you off experimenting with Shinrin-Yoku: cold, crisp, fresh air can help you think more clearly and may even enhance your experience.