On a recent road trip I intentionally practiced a lot of forest bathing. Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing, also referred to as forest therapy, began in Japan in the 1980s and has since become popular worldwide. The Japanese government explicitly introduced Shinrin-yoku in 1982, urging its citizens to utilize 1000s of wooded miles. Today, Japan has 62 designated therapeutic types of woods, which attract millions of visitors.

Shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”) is a physiological and psychological exercise, an ecotherapy if you will, which also stimulates interest in protecting forests and wild lands. It’s a type of mindfulness that invites nature to inspire and heal us. Studies have demonstrated a wide array of health benefits, especially in the cardiovascular and immune systems, and for stabilizing and improving mood and cognition.

Bathing in a wooded, foresty area is a simple practice of creating extra awareness and mindfulness as one submerges under the canopy. It isn’t necessarily hiking or climbing, but if those are part of the terrain and you lose some sensitivity due to physical exertion, forest bathing can still be done.

Skidaway Island Park, Savannah Georgia
📸 Pamir Kiciman

Mostly you absorb all that surrounds you with all of the five senses at the very least, and more if you meditate or are involved in any healing and spiritual work. It’s also important to stop and breathe the forest in deeply, both into lungs and your cellular structure.

  1. With the eyes you take in nature’s harmonious shapes and predominantly green color, which has its own benefits. What we see in nature is in general peaceful and pleasant, and as you can see color therapy is included.
  2. With the ears you hear and take in all the sounds in nature. Again, in most cases these are pleasant, relaxing and inspiring sounds. Bird calls, creature sounds, the sounds of water and wind. Sound therapy is included too.
  3. Touch is part of the experience. Most trails are over natural surfaces. We spend all our time indoors on artificial surfaces. Your legs and feet feeling the give, and rise and fall of a natural environment aligns the body. Touch can be highlighted more as well by taking time to stop and touch bark, fungi, hug a tree, brush ferns against your face, sit on rocks, ground down and so on.
  4. Taste can be included if the area has naturally growing berries or other foods that can be foraged. Mushrooms or truffles too, as long as one is knowledgeable on what’s safe and can be consumed by humans. Foraged materials can also be enjoyed later, providing a kind of continuation of the experience.
  5. Smell. This is the big one. Going to get into it next, but the forest yields scents and aromas that stir our soul and ancient memories of living connected to nature, instead of living inside modern buildings in cities.

Before we get into the significance of smell and things to smell, forest bathing is the perfect counterbalance to the majority of humanity living in urban areas. Modern urban living has definitely created a disconnection, not just from nature but each other and our own selves. It’s a disconnection from natural living, which we can still maintain and need to, while habituating urban homes and workplaces.

The benefits that the air in a forest provides are a result of aromatic compounds called terpenes, which are produced by plants and trees. Terpenes are plant secondary metabolites, compounds which aren’t needed for a plant’s basic functions but required for its long-term health.

Other than terpenes, secondary metabolites contain various compounds such as alkaloids and phenolics. Each has its own unique health benefits.

All of this is mostly delivered via aromatherapy nowadays, if you diffuse essential oils in your home, or use them with Reiki, in baths, dryer balls, skincare, healing and so on.

These compounds exist in nature, in forests, meadows or even ocean environments and bathing in them, in the wilderness is where health benefits multiply.

Basically, the beautiful scent a plant gives off could be part of its secondary metabolite function to ensure its longevity, protect it from bugs or other factors. For humans though these compounds usually smell wonderful and/or are beneficial in many ways.

For the plant it’s defense, for humans it’s delight!

This is the magic of nature, its intelligence. Its resourcefulness.

(Continued below pics. Click pics to enlarge. All 📸 by Pamir Kiciman © 2020, All Rights Reserved.)

IMMUNE SYSTEM

Forest Therapy or forest bathing refers to the practice of spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness. With the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertain outcomes, immune response, the strength and power of your body’s immune system has become a major concern. Boosting Immunity with Reiki has become a very popular post here.

I’ve written mostly about Reiki this year because of the ongoing virus and some of those are linked below.

One of the biggest benefits of spending quality time in a forest is how it charges up our immune system. This first begins with the mitigation of stress at which forest bathing excels. Stress is root cause to a multitude of aliments. It also compromises immunity.

With stress better managed, immunity naturally gets stronger. Walking in a forest or any type of nature also slows down heart rate, conserves energy, prompts rest. It’s a relational practice that’s about a loving connection we have to the living things around us. Having a meaningful relationship with nature doesn’t happen with one walk or appreciating the idea of this practice, but never doing it. We’ve disconnected from nature to such a great degree that regular immersion in the wilds, in every season is necessary.

That’s why it’s a practice. Like Reiki is a practice. This means we commit and practice regularly whether we feel the need for it or not. In other words, practice not only when there’s pain, anxiety, feeling low, but practice because it’s who you are.

The forest, nature, meditation, Reiki, healing, spirituality, creativity, living on the planet and in society in peaceful ways are part of what you cherish, part of your value system. Part of the kind of world you want to live in!

Related:

Quarantine Reiki

Reiki for COVID-19 Test Anxiety

Trees as a Way to Remember the Earth


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Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku