The term emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”). The purpose was to offer an eco-antidote to tech-boom burnout and to inspire residents to reconnect with and protect the country’s forests.
This form of ecotherapy was of course fully embraced by the Japanese, and in the 1990s, researchers began studying the physiological benefits of forest bathing, providing the scientific evidence to support the fact that time in nature is extremely beneficial for us!
Forest bathing can feel a little intimidating but don’t be fooled; it is not just for the wilderness-lover. It can be as simple as walking in any natural environment and consciously connecting with what’s around you. The key here is making a conscious effort, not taking a walk through the woods listening to your favorite podcast. It is about actively listening to the wildlife in the trees, watching how the sunlight filters through, breathing in so deep that you taste the crisp air, taking in all of the smells and feeling the texture of the trees, rocks, and earth around you.
Truly immersing yourself and taking it all in offers many benefits. It lowers stress, decreases blood pressure and cortisol levels, promotes relaxation, enhances mindfulness and psychological well-being, and improves attention, mood and creativity.
Ready to experience forest bathing for yourself? Make sure you pack your nature journal as a way to help you focus and identify what you’re seeing, touching, smelling and feeling.
If you aren’t quite ready, there are guides who specialize specifically in this practice. Often after a guided tour, it’s much easier to go into the natural world and incorporate some of the practices you learned, and more importantly, reap the benefits it provides!