During my last visit to the woods, I was introduced to a concept that made my day and possibly changed my life…
30 minutes sitting beneath a tree, alone, at dusk. First, looking into the distance, then focussing on closer surroundings, before playing with a leaf whilst focussing on breathing in and out. The experience left me feeling refreshed, calm and relaxed. Further research reveals that I’m not the only one!
“Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses.
This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy,
the medicine of simply being in the forest.”– Shinrin-yoku.org
Forest bathing, or ‘shinrin-yoku’ in Japanese, is a concept originating in Japan, used and researched widely in Japan and South Korea as a method of preventive health care and healing.
What’s the science?
The body’s immune system is boosted by spending time in the forest due to the increased production of Natural Killer (NK) cells.
Dr Li uses this helpful analogy to explain:
- Cancer cells = Criminals
- NK Cells = Policemen
- More policemen = Safety
- More NK cells = Better health
Research shows that a higher amount of NK cells correlates to lower rates of cancer. To maintain high levels of NK activity, a significant amount of time spent forest bathing, every month, is recommended.
Research also suggests that anxiety, depression and fatigue can be reduced from forest bathing, as the production of Adrenaline, a hormone contributing to stress, decreases. Another hormone affected by forest bathing is Adiponectin, the production of this so-called ‘fat fighter’ increases in a forest environment. A higher rate of Adiponectin production correlates to decreased cases of heart disease and obesity alongside boosting the body’s metabolism.
Further research is taking place to discover exactly why the forest causes these physical chemical effects on our bodies. It is speculated that certain substances released by trees, then breathed in and smelt, play an important role in stimulating these chemical effects.
Engaging all the senses with nature is a key feature of forest bathing. With this range of benefits, both psychological and physical, experienced personally and being researched extensively…let’s make forest bathing our go-to medicine!
Dirksen, K. (2016) Science of “forest bathing”: fewer maladies, more well-being?
Li, Q. (2009) Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function
Li, Q. (2018) Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing
Miyazaki, Y. in Matador Network. (2019) Shinrin Yoku: The Art of Forest Bathing
Skinrin Yoku. (No Date) http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html