What is Forest Therapy and how can it benefit your life?
Have you been feeling stressed, disconnected or unwell lately? Would Immersing yourself gently in nature, feeling the sunlight on your skin and filling your lungs with fresh air, while taking in all the sight and smells of your surroundings without any pressure or deadlines feel great?
Welcome to Forest Therapy.
Its often the simple overlooked parts of our lives, the parts we take for granted that can make a huge difference. So too with the timeless, simple and profound practice of Forest Therapy.
The practice of Shinrin Yoku is about being in nature and connecting to the sentient beingness of the forest. The New Yorker magazine described it thus, ‘The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku—literally translated as “forest bathing”—is based on a simple premise: immerse yourself in the forest, absorb its sights, sounds, and smells, and you will reap numerous psychological and physiological benefits.’
Forest Therapy is a valuable practice that I believe has the power to start to rebuild an interactive, healthy, co-created relationship between nature and humans. It was developed in Japan during the 1980’s, when the number of people working in offices dramatically increased. As a result of concern at the sudden rise in cancer, heart disease, anxiety and depression – Japan poured money into researching the cause. The conclusion they came to was that nature helped to reverse all of these issues and so Shinrin Yoku, directly translated as Forest Bathing was born and is widely practiced throughout Japan today.
The forest itself is a living organism, a community in constant communication. Trees talk though their root systems and a forest is a lot more than just a collection of trees, it is a system working together. Using the practice of forest therapy, a slow, preferably barefoot walk, using breathing exercises and meditation to enhance the experience, one can come into a place of deep communion. Like anything, it takes time and practice. Interestedly this time its a practice of slowing down, of feeling the stillness inside and outside, of coming into harmony with all that surrounds us.
The benefits of Forest Therapy has been widely researched and science has come to the conclusion that spending quality time in the forest can yield amazing health benefits. One of the main reasons for this is the natural aromatic and bioactive substances released by plants – confirming what aromatherapy has been telling us for years. When you are in nature, plants all around you are releasing gaseous Terpenes, which you breathe into your lungs and get absorbed into your skin. Another reason for the health benefits is the increase of oxygen flowing into the body.
The most common health benefits of Forest Therapy are:
- Increasing immunity and natural killer cells activity and quantity
- Decreased risk of heart attack- reducing blood pressure and heart rate
- Protection against obesity and diabetes – reducing blood sugar levels
- More energy and better sleep – decreasing cortisol levels in the body
- Mood-boosting effects – increasing endorphins
- Decreased inflammation through an increase in CO2 – clearer skin, pain relief
Forest Therapy has been embraced by the medical profession in Japan and is prescribed as a form of medicine. Corporations in Japan also employ Forest Bathing Practitioners to work with their staff. All around the world Qualified Forest Bathing Practitioners are working in health spas and retreats.
We all know that spending time in nature feels fantastic and its great news that science is now backing what we all intuitively know.
I invite you to spend time in nature today and check out the opportunities on this site for creating a profound relationship to the natural world.
Tree Mystic was started by New Zealander, Hannah McQuilkan a qualified Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Aromatherapist and Forest Therapy Guide. Please join the conversation by checking out our ‘Experiences’ page.
Hannah is available to speak and lead experiences anywhere in the world, you can contact her here.