Forest Bathing

Being in the Present Moment

No, this isn’t a clever way to reduce water usage during drought conditions. “Forest bathing” or as it’s called in Japan shinrin-yoku, has now been clinically proven to reduce stress and improve human health. We gardeners and wildflower lovers have always known this, but the Japanese have perfected the art of shinrin-yoku (There are 48 official “forest therapy” trails in Japan.) And Western Science has documented the effect on humans through clinical research. In its most simple form, forest bathing is just about getting out and simply being in nature…being in the present moment.

An article or book on forest bathing pops up every couple of years…The New York Times wrote in 2010. The current issue Outside magazine has an entire spread: “Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning.”  Outside whimsically describes a forest bathing session: “…You stroll a little, maybe write a haiku, crack open a spicebush twig and inhale its woodsy, sassy scent. People come out of the city and literally shower in the greenery…” Research is documenting that the health effects of forest bathing include reduced blood pressure, reduced cortisol levels, an increase in white blood cells, and an increase in natural killer cells. One study found over a hundred different essential oils in forest air.

Based on ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, shinrin-yoku recommends a mindful approach to bathing in the forest and focusing on experiencing the forest through all five senses.  If you’re caught up in the busyness of urban life and have to stop a second to try to remember what the five senses are….it’s time to head for the forest!

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