Forest Bathing: Reconnecting with Nature
Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” originated in Japan as a way for individuals to reconnect with the natural world. Forest bathing has quickly expanded around the world due to the positive mental and physical health outcomes associated with the practice. The name may suggest that this practice involves swimming or washing in the forest, however, it has very little to do with hygiene. Rather, the term suggests a sort of cleanse from the stressors and responsibilities of everyday life by taking some time to be alone and quite in nature. Breathing in the sights and sounds of the surrounding natural environment.
“Cross between a hike and a meditation class.” An NPR journalist suggests that a forest bathing experience is like a “Cross between a hike and a meditation class, where the aim is to slow down and immerse yourself in the forest.”
Studies on forest bathing participants found that individuals who had spend time in nature had lower hostility scores and lower depression rates than those who had not spent any time in nature on a specific day. Individuals also had higher vitality scores or as the study suggests, were more lively.
The research on forest bathing continues to find both mental and physical health benefits associated with spending time outside and bolsters support for nature prescription programs, including the National Park Service’s Park Prescription Program and the ParkRx Program. These initiatives look to encourage doctors to prescribe time outdoors as a valid “medication” for many health issues including, depression, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Listen to the full NPR radio story Here.