Taking in the air is a time honoured tradition that probably seems quaint to some. But getting in touch with nature to some degree is a fundamental part of being human, we’d argue. And we’re not alone either. In Japan, the concept of shinrin-yoku was introduced and developed throughout the 1980’s as a method of preventative health care and healing.
Researchers found that there was a link between robust health and spending time beneath the canopy of a forest. Since then, forest therapy has taken on a whole new life not just in Japan and South Korea, but across the world. The idea of it, even if not known by that name, is easily seen in the thousands of snaps you can see every day of people on hikes or wading across streams in their spare time. No one is meant to be cooped up in an office cubicle all day.
What is Forest Bathing?
So you want to do some forest bathing but you don’t know where to start. Do I have to get naked to do it properly? Won’t I get arrested? Not at all. (Well, you might get arrested but you don’t have to get naked.) The idea of forest bathing is pretty straightforward really. A person simply visits some natural area, like a forest, and walks in a relaxed manner enjoying the calming and rejuvenating benefits of being in nature.
Purpose through Purposelessness
In modern society, we’re taught that everything we do must have a purpose and if it doesn’t then it’s a waste of time. Well, shirk yourself free from such capitalist notions. Wandering seemingly aimlessly within the forest has a tonne of benefits for your body and mental well being.
There are a lot of scientifically proven benefits to forest bathing such as:
- Boosted immune system
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved mood
- Increased energy levels
- Improved sleep
- Stress reduction
Not bad at all for a little walk, eh? If you manage to incorporate this into your regular routine there are even more benefits to be had.
- Deeper and clearer intuition
- Increased flow of energy
- Overall sense of happiness and contentment
- Deepening friendships
This might all sound like hippie-dippie nonsense to you but think of how stressed out and burnt out you can be sitting in fluorescently lit spaces day in day out, driving through snail-pace traffic, cramming onto packed buses and trains, or doing any of the mentally exhausting tasks we must do in our modern society. Much of this can be counteracted by getting back to nature, even just for a few hours a week.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.”
These are the words of John Muir, the Scottish naturalist and environmentalist philosopher. He also used his influence to create Yosemite National Park. Living in the age of industrialisation that laid the foundation for our current society, he knew exactly what he was talking about when he spoke of the nerve-shaken and how vital it was, and still is, to be in nature.