In the 6th century BCE, Cyrus the Great planted gardens in the middle of cities in the Persian Empire to improve human health. In the 16th century, the Swiss philosopher and physician Paracelsus wrote: “The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. But it was the Japanese who actively developed the idea with Shinrin-yoku.
You can do Shinrin-yoku on your own- or turn to an experienced forest guide to manage the (often very slow) pace and direct you to the best places. Unlike a simple walk, “forest bathing” invites you to enjoy the moment not just with sight but with all five senses. You are encouraged to live in the moment, to fully enjoy the place in which you find yourself, to abandon technology to find a true relationship with nature.
What can be done in the Shinrin-yoku?
The centrepiece of forest bathing is undoubtedly meditation mindfulness, that is, being present with body and mind in the present moment, focusing on oneself and the natural world around. Other activities can be long, slow walks, meditation, breathing exercises and tree-hugging.
The benefits of the Shinrin-yoku
The positive effects are innumerable, in a 2010 study published in the New York Times evidence was produced that it can stimulate natural immunity to diseases: An increase in immune function is one of the most immediate benefits, but other benefits have also been noted, as reported in another study, “Shinrin-yoku: the Medicine of Being in the Forest”. In this article, decreased heart rate and blood pressure are reported, as well as decreased stress and cures for depression.
The premise is to really try: it is an active exercise. The crux of the whole matter is that it is not enough to take a jaunt into a forest to feel immediate benefits. It is more of a mental exercise that one comes to with time, practice and concentration. You need to make an effort to perceive all things with the five senses, you must try to abandon thoughts of the city and technology. Immersing yourself in the forest is a conscious exercise that must be embraced in its entirety if it is to be effective.