Spending time in nature has served the long-held and well-known belief in promoting health and longevity. Yet, as humanity continues to dwell in busy cityscapes, the illusion of separation from mother Earth increases at exponential levels. The art of Shinrin Yoku, which translates to forest bathing, is a Japanese practice that immerses the practitioner in all the senses including the physical such as touch, smell, sound, breathe as well as the spiritual, emotional, and mental senses.
Forest bathing differentiates from the typical hike by encouraging practitioners to “take in the forest atmosphere”. There is no destination. Forest bathers are encouraged to let their body lead the way rather than a trail designed to keep you in motion. Perhaps you might stop to observe the leaf adorned with water droplets or pause to touch the trunk of a tree.
Researchers are discovering a plethora of scientific proof and have established a diverse library of scientific literature on the health benefits of forest bathing. This research is helping establish forest therapy across the globe.
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks” – John Muir
The following states a conclusion from a forest bathing study conducted in August 2016:
“Despite the bad weather conditions (rainy weather and lower ambient temperature) during the forest bathing, our study indicated that forest bathing produced the following significant benefits compared to urban area walking:
- A decrease in pulse rate.
- A decrease in urinary dopamine.
- A tendency toward a decrease in urinary adrenaline.
- Increase in adiponectin in serum.
- Decreases in negative moods such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, and confusion.
- Increase in feelings of vigor in the POMS test in middle-aged males with higher blood pressure.
Taken together, the forest bathing program induced significant physiological and psychological relaxation. These findings clarified the physiological and psychological effects of the forest bathing program and suggested a possibility of clinical use.”
Another study suggests phytoncide, a chemical emitted from trees plays a crucial role in activating human natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells are part of the innate immune system and play a crucial role in rejecting tumors and virally infected cells.
According to the Shinrin-Yoku site, some of the benefits of frequent practice consist of deeper intuition, increased flow of energy, increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species, deepening of relationships, and an overall increase in sense of happiness.
The lessons we can learn from observing the natural world around us are endless. While medicinal benefits have been found, frequent forest bathing might remind us of the universal truth that is unity. Rather than viewing nature as a place to visit or escape to, we might begin to see the nature that is within us and hone our skills at harnessing that power.
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