Shinrin-yoku – a practice that originated in Japan in the 1980’s is a therapy to help alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. The term is loosely translated to “Forest Bathing” in English.
Forest Bathing is not hiking. It’s about spending time in nature – deliberately slowing down and becoming immersed in the natural surrounds by using your senses of smell, touch, sight and taste. In a way, it’s akin to guided meditation, in that you focus on things like the crunch of leaves underfoot, the sound of two birds calling, the smell of pine needles. Some people even talk to the trees, silently asking them questions. I think I’d stop short of tree licking though…
The trees actually release compounds (phytoncides) that have been proven beneficial in fighting stress hormones and dropping anxiety levels. After 15 minutes, heart rate and blood pressure go down. After days of exposure, creativity and cognitive ability increase. Cool!
An entire industry is blossoming around Forest Bathing. People are assembling Forest Bathing clubs and paying for certified assistance in the experience. In fact programs to become certified as a Forest Bathing guide are at capacity as soon as they’re announced.
For those of us who are daily benefactors of the Northwoods, none of this is a news flash. We’re livin’ clean every day! If you want to dip your toes into this Forest Bathing thing, we have everything you need right here. You just need to choose your suds! – Wanda Boldon