Stressed? Take A Forest Bath.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. -Henry David Thoreau
While manuka honey facials and himalayan salt rooms are certainly worthy of all their doting reviews, it’s ‘forest bathing’ that takes the cake for Best (Health & Beauty) Treatment of the Year. IMO.
Yes…forest bathing. Or “Shinrin-Yoku.”
Good news: It’s done in a real forest, with your clothes on and without having your body painted in dark, jellied mud. Rejoice!
Better explained, Shinrin-Yoku is the act of slow and mindful walks through a natural, wooded area. It’s a practice that requires you to attentively move through the landscape in a way that opens the senses, cultivates presence and invites healing. And just like any true practice — yoga, meditation, Netflix binging — it demands focus.
But the benefits seem to be hashtag worth it.
A growing body of evidence, mostly out of Japan where the practice originated, proves that forest bathing helps to boost immunity, reduce stress and combat an abundance of stress-related illnesses. Illnesses including heart disease, obesity, gastrointestinal problems and fatigue, to name a few.
You can dive a bit deeper into the research studies and medical findings here.
According to a survey sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2001), American’s spend 87 percent of their time indoors and 6 percent in an enclosed vehicle. It seems we’ve become an indoor species, trapped by the comfortable pleasures that The Digital Era has afforded us. Basically, we’re tuned-out and powered-on and our health is suffering because of it: We’re 93% indoorsman.
Not something to be proud of.
Stress takes a serious toll on the quality of our lives, so every little bit you can do to alleviate it is very, very wise. Here are 5 ways to begin your own stress-busting Shinrin-Yoku practice and boost your wellness journey.
- Meander through the woods. Forest bathing is not a fast walk or hefty hike. It’s done at a slow and purposeful, gentle pace.
- Tune in to the smells, sounds and sights. Try your very best to appreciate every little sensory experience. Maybe pause to touch the trees, smell the leaves, listen for the special song of each bird.
- Give it two hours. Or more. Based on everything I’m reading by way of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, two hours is the recommended amount of practice time.
- Focus on breathing. Easier said than done, I know. As a New Yorker, I’m particularly inclined to forget this part. But, it’s important. Deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
- Find a local guide or retreat center. Many resorts around the country have begun offering Shinrin-Yoku as a spa service and there are thousands of certified guides who are trained to help. A quick google search in your area, will point you in the right direction.
Enjoy, my friends. May your stress float away. Far far away.