Forest Bathing

Spend your free time in the woods.

Forest Bathing is a new concept to me, perhaps not for you. Just the sound of those two words together gives me a peaceful feeling. It is a Japanese term for spending time in the forest. The Japanese word for it is shinrinyoku. Shinrin means forest and yoku means bath or immersing oneself.  The idea is to immerse yourself in a forest and, using your senses, soak up the quiet and the aromatic and visual pleasures of trees.

Spending time outdoors in nature is beneficial to our health and increases longevity.  Fresh air, trees and sunlight are the necessary ingredients.  Being away from cars, noise and pavement is critical.  Being in nature has a therapeutic effect on us that we need after the past year. According to a recent article in the New York Times, forest bathing is ‘strongly linked’ to a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones and inflammation, and decreased anxiety, depression and fatigue.

Japan leads the world in research into forest bathing and nature studies, and the rest of the world is catching on.  A pediatrician in Oakland, CA writes prescriptions for forest bathing for her patients she feels do not get enough outdoor time. They are called ‘park prescriptions’ and the pediatrician, Dr. Nooshin Razani, is conducting a clinical trial to examine how to ‘operationalize a park prescription program in a low-income setting’.  REI, the outdoor equipment retailer, is a significant investor in the research to establish a link between human health and time spent outdoors.  As of 2018 REI had invested over $1million dollars into understanding how time spent outdoors impacts childhood development, happiness and health factors.

Tips on forest bathing:

  • It is advisable to forest bathe in good weather and dress as you would to go hiking.
  • Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Dress in layers in case the temperature changes. Bring water and a snack.
  • Leave electronics in the car, or if you must bring one, keep it turned off.
  • Breathe in and smell the fragrance of the forest. Let all your senses take over.
  • Walk slowly, sit for a while. Don’t pass through a forest on a run, that misses the point.
  • Try to stay a minimum of two hours.
  • Try to connect with the forest. Hug a tree, smell the odor of the phytoncides, plants that give off an aroma that can increase the number of cancer-killer cells in the body.

Prior to the pandemic (when it seemed that everyone was leaving cities and making radical location changes) it was projected that by 2050 66% of the world’s population would live in cities.  In addition, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors.  The U.S. population was clearly going to need forest bathing! Even a small amount of time spent in nature can have a beneficial impact on your health. Spring is right around the corner, so get ready!

This book by Dr. Qing Li was translated into English in 2019 and is very well reviewed. Dr. Li is president of Japanese Society of Forest Medicine.  $13.59