What is Japanese forest bathing and why should you do it?
It’s no surprise that the Japanese have pretty much nailed their attitude to mother earth. Surrounded by lush natural beauty, the Japanese incorporate nature into just about everything they do, from traditional hot spring baths to the abundance of fresh fish and seaweed in their diet.
But there’s one Japanese practice that is about to go global up as the newest wellness trend: the art of Shinrin-Yoku, or forest bathing.
The name itself is probably having your imagination run wild but let us clarify: forest bathing isn’t the practice of taking a literal bath full of foliage, nor does it involve skinny dipping in a forest lake. Forest bathing is the meditative art of wandering through a forest and immersing yourself in everything the trees have to offer.
Forest bathing stems from forest therapy, in which the Japanese believe that as humans we spent our first 2 million years in the forest. Now, thanks to urbanisation, we spend more time indoors than out in the wild, which has lead to high stress levels and other negative health consequences. Effectively, forest bathing is designed to return us to our natural environment.
The smell of the wood and clean forest air, the sound of the leaves in the breeze, the colours of the vibrant flowers and hues of brown and green, the feeling of the rocks and twigs underneath your feet all contribute to your complete immersion in the forest. It’s designed to bring you closer to nature, sharing a spiritual moment.
Unlike hiking or another nature-based activity, forest bathing doesn’t have an ‘end goal’ or final destination. You don’t walk through the forest to get to a particular area or hike for a stunning view. You’ll discover happiness and wellbeing simply by being there.
For those of us who carry back up chargers everywhere we go for fear of our phones dying, here’s the tricky part: forest bathing is only effective when you’re totally and utterly disconnected from the online world. So before you start crafting a forest bathing spotify playlist, park the breaks; not even listening to music is allowed. Leave your phone behind, or turn it off and put it in your bag.
Not convinced? While it may seem like a simple approach, forest bathing has some pretty major health benefits. Many Japanese researchers believe that it’s the smell of the trees that lead to positive health effects of forest bathing, including lower blood pressure. Evergreen trees release aromatic chemicals that help bolster our immune system and release healing properties. Even the bark itself can release relaxing aromas, like willow and witch hazel.
Why? In an era where devices rule our lives, young people are desperately searching for ways to reconnect with nature and seeking a moment of mindfulness without forking out thousands for a yoga retreat.
Never underestimate the healing power of nature – take it from the Japanese. Being cheap and hassle-free, it’s no surprise that forest bathing is set to surpass ‘hygge’ as the hottest wellness practice on the block. For those of us who tire of the concrete jungle aesthetic, immersing yourself in greenery is bound to provide a welcome change of scene. Trust us, outdoors is the new indoors – so better clear your schedule…