Have you ever stood in the middle of a forest and stopped to listen to the sounds of nature around you; the rustling of leaves, trickling streams and twittering birds. Then you’ve participated in the Japanese practise of Shinrin-yoku, one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental well-being. Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) literally means “forest or tree bathing” and is a therapeutic practice that emerged back in the 1980s as an antidote to the stresses of a fast-paced, urban lifestyle.
Tree bathing allows you to slow down from the breakneck speed of life and guide us to actively reconnect with nature.
Tree bathing has been proven to improve your health physiologically and psychologically; something that many of us need more than we realize. In a study that looked into the potential benefits of tree bathing, the results indicated that it is beneficial for cardiovascular health, metabolism, mood improvement, alleviation of stress and anxiety, as well as improving your emotional state and attitude. This is due to the high concentrations of phytoncides - airborne essential oils that are given off by trees which provide a natural immunity boost. These chemicals have natural antimicrobial and insecticidal qualities that protect trees from germs and parasites. The incredible thing about phytoncides is that the health benefits you get from it can last for weeks. Anyone up for a trip to the forest? Today, this therapy of soaking oneself in nature is also widely embraced by celebrities. Kate Middleton is among the many who find healing and solace amidst nature. The Duchess of Cambridge said, “forest bathing gives you an overall feeling of calm. You are more relaxed and clear-headed but also energised and connected, not just to the natural space but to the people around you, as well”.
Tree bathing can be done both in a forest and at a local town park; as long as you’re spending time relaxing surrounded by nature, you’re golden. You can do these to reduce stress optimally while you’re out and about in a natural space of your choice:
Turn off your phone, leave your camera and other distractions at home. You’re there to disconnect from modern noises and to be at the present. Fiddling around with your gadget is counterproductive to the goals of Shinrin-yoku.
Don’t think too much, just wander aimlessly. Just let your body take you wherever it wants, taking in the goodness around you. As Bruce Lee would say, “don’t think, feel.”
Breath in the fresh air and take your time appreciating the morning dew on green leaves. Reach out and touch the soft, green moss and rough bark on the trees. Open your mind, let the stillness take over and forget the rush of citylife. Let your surroundings give you the therapy that you need.
Find a cozy spot to sit down and observe. See how the animals are reacting to your presence and how they behave once you’re in tune with your surroundings.
If you’re doing it with a friend, try not to speak throughout the whole experience. Tree bathing is an intimate moment shared only between you and Mother Nature. You can gather and share your experience with your friend afterwards.
Try to dedicate roughly about 2 hours to get away from the city. It doesn’t have to be a forest, a simple hike out to Runyon Canyon or a walk through public gardens can do wonders to relieve your stress.
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