In the 1980s, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries developed the concept of shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing, or immersing oneself in the atmosphere of the forest.
The Director General of the ministry, Tomohide Akiyama, developed shinrin-yoku in response to the ill effects of widespread nature deprivation and the need to protect the country’s diminishing forests. Forest bathing was the perfect solution for both.
Forest bathing is based on the concept of reciprocity. As people seek more exposure to nature and receive its medicinal benefits, they form a relationship which sparks their desire to preserve it.*
The benefits of forest bathing
After just 15 minutes of wandering through a forest practicing "Shinrin-yoku" may result in feeling calmer, and lower stress and blood pressure levels. It may also decrease anxiety, depression and anger.
Most importantly, forest bathing can help you to feel at peace, attuned to the intimate connection between the self and the natural world.
How to forest bathe
Visit a park, forest, woods or area with plenty of trees and nature. Trees are an important aspect of the experience; however, other natural settings such as deserts, grasslands, bosques, and urban open spaces, are also beneficial.
Take in the sights around you, smell the aroma of the trees and bushes, hear the bird songs and listen to the sounds of the animals and insects scurrying as they go about their daily activity of living.
The idea is to experience the forest as fully as possible with all of your senses, dipping yourself into it as you'd slip into a bath. Allow everything to wash over you as you sit, stand or walk through the forest.
Bring refreshments and water as needed and do not push yourself to the point of tiredness. This is an experience to be enjoyed, not a hiking competition.
Repeat regularly. For the greatest benefits, include forest bathing in your weekly zen practice.