What is Shinrin-yoku?

What is Shinrin-yoku?

Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese term for forest bathing

Forest-bathing is the art of taking-in the natural healing properties of the forest and its trees. 

A new word expression, it is the practice of absorbing the organic atmosphere that exists under the forest canopy. It was first conceived in Japan in the 1980s, and it is an important element in preventive healing and healthcare in Japanese medicine today. Researchers have accumulated an extensive and voluminous body of scientific literature, on the healing properties, accrued from time spent under the canopy of a living forest.

What is Shinrin-yoku?
enter the forest

What are the Benefits of Shinrin-yoku?

A new system of healing the patient has evolved from this practice. It is called forest medicine. Forest Medicine, is the result of Forest Bathing. 

Shinrin-yoku is proving that forest bathing can reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, bolster the immune and cardiovascular systems, and give your energy levels a boost. It also purports to assist in creativity and concentration, uplift your mood, and help you to lose weight. All of this in an effort to add years to your life. 

My First Forest Bath

A few days ago, I returned home, and to the civilized world, after spending three days under the forest canopy. To my sweet surprise, I was well rested, and mentally and emotionally recharged. I was less stressed, and in a very congenial frame of mind. I often return from these mountain experiences spiritually refreshed, but physically exhausted. This time my experience was very different.

To be more specific, I spent most of my three days forest-bathing in a vast grove of Western Hemlock.

The Western Hemlock, tsuga heterophylla, is one of the most common trees in the Pacific Northwest of North America. 

It forms vast, dense groves in moist, acidic soils and is found in often impenetrable, pure stands on flats and on terrain of the lower slopes. The largest hemlock, it has a long, slender, and often fluted trunk, and a narrow, conical crown of short, slender, horizontal or slightly drooping branches. It is an evergreen, growing to over 45 meters with a trunk diameter of up to 1.2 meters. 

Its conservation status is least concern, LC, and its populations are increasing.

What is Shinrin-yoku?
the western hemlock

As soon as I discovered this vast grove of hemlocks I was immediately coaxed into its vortex, and I could not leave its attractive nature. The very reason why I remained there for most of my three days.

I had experienced what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku. 

Shinrin-yoku, the practice of forest-bathing is simply spending time bathing in the organic and natural atmosphere found under a forest canopy.  

This was how I spent most of my trip that had first been intended to hike up the river to the alpine meadow, that lay at the end of it. My intention was to visit this alpine meadow and  give my new hiking boots a good workout, in the process, but as it turned out, I completely forgot about my new boots until I got back to my truck. 

I usually take my boots off a few times during the day, to let my feet breathe, and I often do this in ice-cold river waters whenever I can. This time, instead of soaking my tired  feet into the river, I chose to walk the forest floor in my bare feet.

This, in my estimation, is what triggered my first forest bath. I had practiced shinrin-yoku, and this was the reason for my newfound state of mind.

A New Approach

This has produced a major turning-point in my hiking career. It has caused me to slow down more and bathe in this organic atmosphere that dwells under the forest canopy.

My reasons for returning to Nature are always the same. The peace and solitude that can only be found there. At the end of the day, I will still be doing the same things more or less, but with some modifications. My thoughts and activities, now, will be working on a very different frequency. I believe it to be all part of the maturing process. Time, and my accumulated exposure to the natural world, brings a more profound degree of comfort and easiness when sojourning these majestic groves of forest giants.

What is Shinrin-yoku?
a forest floor

Leave no Traces, Take Nothing but Memories

“We need the tonic of wildness … At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that the land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us.

We can never have enough of nature”.

Henry David Thoreau

These words hold a very different meaning for me now. In the past, I focused more on the physical component of nothing left behind, but after this recent forest adventure, my attention will be more focused on the memories, and the medicinal benefits acquired from my forest adventures. I am always fascinated with the simplicity of new versions of old ideas. 

Who, upon reading this, is not aware of the benefits of a pleasant walk in the forest. Henry David Thoreau wrote about it in Walden Pond.

How to Practice Forest Bathing

Here is an easy guide for you to follow, as you begin your first experiences with shinrin-yoku.

Touch and feel the tree bark, smell the aromas of the forest, listen to the sound of the wind, rustling through the leaves, and hear the music played by the raindrops as they fall on the leaves of the trees.

Leave your electronic gadgets at home, to better experience the healing properties under the forest canopy

Wander about aimlessly, let your body take you where it may.

Pause more often, learn to slow down, leave the rat race behind, stop to look at the leaves, look at one leaf, what can you see, smell the leaf, try to connect with the tree.

How does the Earth feel on your feet, walk the Earth in your bare feet, is it different? Does it slow you down more, can you feel your heart rate becoming more regular? 

Can you hear your heartbeat?

Sit and listen to the sounds of the forest, what else can you hear, other than the birds.

Observe the mammals, and how their behavior changes when your energy patterns change.

It is best to do this alone, or not too close to other humans, to better experience the healing medicine that dwells under the forest canopy.

What is Shinrin-yoku?

What are your Thoughts on Forest Bathing?

Are you an experienced outdoors person? Do you hike and camp in the forested environment? 

Have you ever experienced these feelings of well-being and elation after spending time under a forest canopy?

This long list of positive health benefits attributed to Forest Bathing, are none the less, all related in scientific theory.

If spend time in the forest, I would love to hear about you thoughts and feelings, after these experiences. You can Contact Me to share your moments under the forest canopy.

Happy Shinrin-yoku!

 

16 thoughts on “What is Shinrin-yoku?”

  1. Ah, the serenity. I have heard of Shinrin-yoku before, but this is wonderful to read about your personal experience of forest bathing. I have always had an affinity with forests and rainforests as we are blessed with such gorgeous spaces here in Queensland. They are such majestic places with healing qualities, if only everyone knew the power of being amongst nature in this way. There is also benefit to going barefoot as it allows our feet to connect with the earth, providing us with valuable electrons that are considered powerful antioxidants. The benefits of being in natural surroundings can’t be underestimated for our mental and physical health. Thank you for sharing such a valuable and insightful post.

    • Thanks Kat for your kind words.

      The forests are surely one of the greatest gifts we have received from Creation. 

      They have been placed here for all to enjoy. 

      Most of us have had the pleasure of walking or sitting on a forest floor. Sadly, we often travel  through the forest at too high a rate of speed. Stopping there, under the living canopy, is an experience not to be missed.

      Enjoy the forest atmosphere. It will bring a calming benefit to your health.

      Paul

  2. Thank you for this great post.

    I never really thought of it as forest bathing but I have noticed how much better I feel and relaxed I seem to be after spending time in nature.

    There’s something about disconnecting from the screen and being out of contact with the rest of society.  I can’t say there’s a physical cause, such as absence from electrical fields, pollution, and whatnot,  but I know there’s a physical effect in the form of calmness, feeling rested and lower anxiety levels.

    I guess what I’m saying is I can’t put a finger on the specific reasons for the noticeable changes but none the less they are there.

    I’d really like to know more about this phenomenon and the theories/facts behind it.

    Thanks again,

    Scott

    • Good Day Scott. 

      We do not have to be physicists to appreciate the warmth and life-giving energy of the Sun, and there is no need to be a psychiatrist to feel good about yourself.

      The simple things in life always hold the most value. A new human being in the family, a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, or a walk in the rain. 

      Shinrin-yoku is a means of connecting ourselves to the Natural World and this always brings a degree of calmness to our lives.

      Paul

  3. Thank you for introducing to me Shinrin-yoku. It is my first time heard this term. I love it, The Forest Bathing. I will definitely try this this summer. I live in upstate of New York, where there are a lot of mountains and trees. I at least do it weekly during the summer.

    I like your guidance “Touch and feel the tree bark, smell the aromas of the forest, listen to the sound of the wind, rustling through the leaves, and hear the music played by the raindrops as they fall on the leaves of the trees …” I went to the mountains so many times and seldom I paid such attention to our lovely forests.

    Now I have guidance and it is going to be completely different rituals. I look forward to my coming Shinrin-yoku!

    • Hi Antony, and welcome to the world of Shinrin-yoku!

      The forests are a major component of the Natural World. Spending time under the forest canopy is a joyful and enervating experience. I’m pleased to hear that you spend your weekends in Nature.

      I would love to hear about your next at forest bathing.

      Paul

  4. I have heard about Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing a lot of times in the past few months and I am absolutely inclined to do it myself. One of my favorite philosophers, Alan Watts is constantly talking about it saying that if you want to really find yourself you’ve got to remove yourself from all the noise and go and live in a forest for a while.

    Thankfully, I’ve got a large forest near my house so I will take your guide and start practicing at once!

    Thank you very much.

    • Good Day Harry

      Thanks for stopping by to read my post. 

      Many people are beginning to realize the need for slowing down to gain greater control over their lives. Alan Watts is one such example, and I’m sure you must have heard of Thoreau as well.

      Take advantage of your nearby forest to enjoy its peace-inducing qualities. I would love to hear about the moments you spend there.

      Paul

  5. Wow, I can’t believe this word is related to wilderness jargon, shinrin yoku. I could remember a course I took when I was in my final year in the university. It was named ‘wildlife and conservation. The professor that was lecturing the course was always carries away when taking the course because he so much enjoyed it. I could remember he gave us an assignment to make a trip to the village and explore the wild forest. I can’t dare to refused because it was a test. I did thesame. Life in wilderness can’t be compare to the life in the city. The only things I can hear was bird and insect chatting. I worked round the forest to see the beauty. I come across many leaf that was considered an herbal medicine and tea. I learn so many things about herbs,shrub and trees and how they can use for body healing. It was fine anyways.

    It is amazing to see shinrin yoku as the forest birth and  natural healing property. I can also consider my time in the forest as forest birth. When I came back to the city,  I had a refreshed mind and soul.  How frequent did you take this forest birth?

    • Hi Stella

      I’m pleased to hear that you enjoy your time under the forest canopy. In addition to its calming effects, it does harbor an assortment of healing plants and herbs as well.

      Living in the city encourages me to get out into Nature and I do spend many days a year there. I try to spend a few weekends a month in the wild.

      Paul

  6. Hi Paul, 

      Here I’m reading a very useful topic. I have heard about Shinrin-yoku somewhere again. Your experience gives us a push to begin this practice very soon.

    My own experience is that always a happy hike in the forest, especially by myself, it revived me. Also, I’m a hiker. Every time I hear the sounds of the birds, the trees, the threshing of the leaves feel an inner lair. I’m impressed with the forest Medicine, as a result of Forest Bathing and all the benefits it provides to people’s health. 

      I will surely my own my first forest bath in orden to feel the healing properties under the forest canopy. Thanks a lot.

       Thodoris

    • Under the forest canopy is a great place to spend a few hours, Thodoris.

      Like you, I hike a lot, and lately I’m spending more time enjoying Nature instead of burning up the miles, up and down the mountainsides, and over the hills and valleys.

      Happy Hiking!

      Paul

  7. I must say that this is the first time that I have read about forest bathing. At first, I thought it was maybe the act of taking a bath in a river or something.

    Reading on, it makes perfect sense that letting yourself take in the ambiance of the forest could have many healing properties, as well as the potential to lower your stress levels, especially in this fast-paced world that we now live in.

    Thank you for the explanation on how to partake in forest bathing, as I am sure many people reading this would like to try the next time they go hiking. It will force me to slow down and appreciate what is around me more, rather than concentrate on how fast I can finish the hike.

    • Thanks Michel, for the kind words. 

      I’m pleased to introduce this concept to you as a way of paying it forward. I have done lots of hiking for speed as well, and get home exhausted and burnt out. What a way to spend a relaxing weekend, lol. 

      This concept has helped me slow down more, to appreciate all that this great planet has to offer us

      Happy Trails

      Paul

  8. I really love the sound of this Forest Medicine, as I live in South Wales, and I’m surrounded by large forest areas wherever I go here. 

    Looking into the process, I don’t suppose the weather could effect this sort of natural healing as even the rain makes a forest area magical, with beautiful sounds as it falls on the greenery. 

    How long on average is each shinrin-yoku session supposed to take?

    • Hi Chris

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Forest Medicine. 

      A pleasant walk in the forest is an event to be enjoyed at your own leisure and pace, much like a freshly brewed morning coffee or a good conversation with a close friend. I don’t believe that placing a time limit on it would be proper and just. 

      In essence, it’s all about slowing down and enjoying life a lot more. 

      Like in meditation, no clocks should be involved. It can be practised in all weather conditions, as each opportunity brings with it a different experience.

      Paul

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