Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku Can boost Immunity, reduce stress & elevate your mood

You don’t need to take off your clothes or use soap or water for that matter. Forest bathing isn’t a bath – it’s a sensory immersion. Forest bathing isn’t a hike, it’s a meander.

Taking a Forrest Dip by Peggy

The idea is to go slow and let yourself take in nature – the sights, smells and sounds of the forest – notice things you might ordinarily miss.  It’s a meditation which helps clear your brain, and see your surroundings with fresh eyes. 

The practice began in Japan. Back in the early 1990s the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku — which translates roughly as forest bathing.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that the practice can help boost immunity and mood and help reduce stress. “Medical researchers in Japan have studied forest bathing and have demonstrated several benefits to our health,” says Philip Barr, a physician who specializes in integrative medicine at Duke University.”

One study published in 2011 compared the effects of walking in the city to taking a forest walk. Both activities required the same amount of physical activity, but researchers found that the forest environment led to more significant reductions in blood pressure and certain stress hormones.

“Researchers were able to document a decrease in blood pressure among forest bathers. As people begin to relax, parasympathetic nerve activity increases — which can lead to a drop in blood pressure.”

“On average, the forest walkers — who ranged in age from 36 to 77 — saw a reduction in their systolic blood pressure from 141 mmHg down to 134 mmHg after four hours in the forest.  This might not sound like a big difference, but it can be clinically significant. Most doctors these days agree that people younger than 60 should aim to keep their blood pressure under 140.”

“There’s another factor that might help explain the decline in blood pressure: Trees release compounds into the forest air that some researchers think could be beneficial for people. Some of the compounds are very distinctive, such as the scent of cedar.”

  • “Back in 2009, Japanese scientists published a small study that found inhaling these tree-derived compounds — known as phytoncides — reduced concentrations of stress hormones in men and women and enhanced the activity of white-blood cells known as natural killer cells .”
  • “Another study found inhalation of cedar wood oils led to a small reduction in blood pressure. These are preliminary studies, but scientists speculate that the exposure to these tree compounds might enhance the other benefits of the forest.”

“The idea that spending time in nature is good for our health is not new. Most of human evolutionary history was spent in environments that lack buildings and walls. Our bodies have adapted to living in the natural world.”

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10 thoughts on “Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku Can boost Immunity, reduce stress & elevate your mood

  1. I need to spend more time in nature. There is a soap that has the scent of cedar wood. It smells really nice. Asian stores have it.

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  2. What a wonderful article. Interesting about the medical research confirmation of what so many of us know: getting outside and enjoying nature is good for us. Despite my fear of snakes, bears, and bugs, I still love being in wilderness.

    Decades ago I read one of Ayn Rand’s books – can’t remember which one – but I’ve never forgotten the passage that totally turned me off to her writing. The main character was in some pristine place, looking at miles of untouched, un-built upon land, the sky unimpeded by skyscrapers. She hated it, found it boring, and could only tolerate being there by imagining all the enormous buildings she could put there, all of them earning her money.

    Becoming one with nature – my choice.

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    • Sharon,
      Wow, that is a memorable passage. I wonder if I would tolerate cities better if I imagined all the trees and flowers I could plant-none of them making me money?
      Peggy

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      • Some cities are finding ways of repurposing unused space/land – rooftops, abandoned railway shoulders, etc – to offer as park land or even plots where residents can farm. Parts of rivers long enclosed by concrete walls are being returned to riparian splendor. There are ways of building honey bee hives in cities and vegetable gardens on front lawns. All very healthy and hopeful.

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        • Sharon,
          I think that is wonderful! I love being in nature and think there are many benefits of having plants around us (and moving water, but that is another issue). Community farms are great.
          Thanks for your nice words about the blog 🙂
          Peggy

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  3. Yes, yes I love that there is research to back this up and even a term “first bathing”. Leave it to the Japanese to come up with it! I love being in a forest surrounded by life and solitude. May I share your blog post on my FB page?

    Thank you for this!

    Peta

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