As society become more aware of the beneficial aspects of particular cultural practices around the world – from hygge, to lagom and ikigai – our craving for discovering the latest and greatest practices grows too. Whilst the unearthing of so many of these concepts over the past few years may have left some people slightly skeptical as to the true benefits of these practices, the latest concept borrowed from Japanese culture known as shinrin yoku or forest bathing, is one that everyone will undoubtedly relate to – regardless of desire to overhaul your lifestyle for newfound simplicity or not.
So what actually is shinrin yoku?
Well, you know that innate feeling of calmness and tranquility you feel when you’re surrounded by nature and only nature, with not another soul in sight? That feeling is the general essence of shinrin yoku. Translating to ‘forest bathing’ in Japanese (and no, there is no actual bathing involved to the practice), the concept of shinrin yoku is derived from the belief that indulging yourself with some time alone amongst the trees allows us to connect back with and appreciate nature, which the Japanese feel they are a part of. The practice is said to be spiritually soothing, allowing us to feel more energy, love and light – basically all the good feelings in life.
‘The practice is said to be spiritually soothing, allowing us to feel more energy, love and light…’
You might be wondering, what’s the difference between shinrin yoku and simply going for a hike? The answer to this question lies in the execution of your amble through the trees. Whilst on a hike you’d usually work up a sweat through the sheer challenge of the trail, when you perform shinrin yoku all you should be doing is simply walking. No jogging or climbing, just strolling through the trees at a leisurely pace and appreciating the beautiful and tranquil atmosphere created by your surroundings.
What are the benefits?
Similarly to the feeling of calmness and connectedness described earlier, regularly practicing shinrin yoku has been proven to improve both physical and mental health. In fact a study conducted by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University in Japan discovered that being immersed in a forest environment promoted lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and lowered pulse rate and blood pressure, amongst other benefits. Further studies conducted by various sources across the globe have recognised additional benefits of shinrin yoku including boosting the immune system; improving mood; improving focus; increasing energy levels; improving sleep; and even accelerating recovery from illness and surgery.
For anyone that relates to and appreciates the serenity lent to us during a rare hike in nature, the prospect that making a concentrated effort to simply be in the moment amongst the forests’ surrounds seems incredibly tempting. Additionally, taking into account the impressive list of benefits shinrin yoku boasts, a relaxed amble amongst nature in order to seek calm and connection now appears more alluring than ever.