Walking among the pines and catching a shaft of sunlight is a magical thing. Letting yourself feel the joy in the moment (and nothing else) is one of the greatest reliefs there is.
The Japanese practise of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing is the simple and therapeutic act of spending time in a forest. If you’ve ever been in a forest, listened to the birds, and watched the sunshine filtering through the leaves, you’ve already participated in one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental well-being. Even Japanese doctors promote forest bathing as an antidote to hectic urban life.
Forest bathing has become a vital part of preventative healthcare in Japan. The results of Japanese studies have shown forest bathing improves sleep quality, mood, ability to focus, and stress levels. Chronic stress can contribute to the development of ailments like anxiety, depression, and insomnia, to name a few. It can also contribute to physiological problems, like high blood pressure, muscle tension, and lowered immune response. Spending time in nature, away from modern technology and big cities can improve your physical and mental health by reducing the effects of stress on your body. Prescribed forest bathing in Japan has led to a healthier lifestyle for people of all ages.
The real value of forest bathing is how accessible it is. Forest bathing has similar benefits to other Japanese practices, such as Zen meditation and mindfulness, but is a much less intimidating concept. Meditation requires you to sit still with your thoughts and allow them to pass through your mind without engagement, while mindfulness is active awareness of your surroundings and life circumstances, and the acknowledgment of how you feel in the moment. In a forest, however, meditation and mindfulness come naturally when you allow your senses to focus on the small, uncomplicated changes around you.
Prescribe yourself some free healthcare today and take a walk into the woods. Just soak up the sensory experience – sights, smells, sounds, touch, taste (don’t lick the trees, but sense the flavour of the air). Disconnect from everything else and unwind.
All pictures in this post were taken by me. Forests are there all year-round and you never know what delights you will find as the seasons change around you.