What is forest bathing?

METRO – The mood-boosting feeling of rejuvenation many people experience while spending time in nature is not in their heads. In fact, researchers in parts of Asia have long since studied and documented the benefits of spending time in nature.

Developed in Japan in the 1980s, the practice of Shinrin-yoku, often referred to as “forest bathing,” has become a part of Japanese medicine. According to Shinrin-yoku.org, the premise behind forest bathing is that spending time in nature via a relaxing walk can prove calming, rejuvenating and restorative.

The benefits of spending time in nature have long been suspected, but only recently has scientific research begun to indicate just how beneficial such time can be. In 2018, researchers from the University of East Anglia released a report indicating some eye-opening benefits of living close to nature and spending time outside. In the report, researchers linked exposure to greenspace with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. In addition to those benefits, Shinrin-yoku.org notes that research indicates forest bathing can improve mood; increase one’s ability to focus, even among children diagnosed with ADHD; accelerate recovery from injury or illness; and improve sleep.

The approach to forest bathing promoted by Shinrin-yoku.org combines leisurely walks on paths under a forest canopy with guided activities. Such activities are designed to open the senses, help people hone their intuition and experience the forest as they never had before. Mindfulness meditation practices also may be included in a forest bathing session.