Ahhh. You know that feeling when you take a quiet walk in the park and you can feel your breath deepen and your heart rate slow down? You come back from your walk feeling maybe just a little less stressed out, a little more centered. Turns out that’s not a placebo effect.
It’s called shinrin-yoku (Japanese for “forest bathing”) and it’s the easiest way to cleanse away stress.
It’s also the hottest new trend in wellness. (Yes, a walk in the woods is a hot new trend.)
Here’s why: studies have shown that a quiet walk in the forest lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, increases cerebral blood, activates a healthy immune system, and improves mental health.
Why the forest? Scientists who partnered with the Japanese Forestry Agency in nearly a dozen studies – involving hundreds of people tested while walking in both an interior setting and in 24 different forests – found that tree density corresponds with stress levels … the more trees, the less stress.
“Forest bathing allows participants to breathe in air that contains volatile essential oils from surrounding trees with active components such as limonene that have antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties,” according to Qing Li, the president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine (Los Angeles Times). The chemicals that trees produce to prevent rot and protect themselves from insect pests are good for us.
Japanese researchers studied cerebral blood flow and found that 20 minutes of forest bathing lowered levels of hemoglobin in red blood cells in the area of the prefrontal cortex that’s connected to stress, indicating that the brain takes a “time-out” while in the forest (Mother Earth News).
Forest bathing is gentle exercise, nature appreciation, and meditation all in one. A short mindful walk among trees will lower your stress, boost your immune system, and lift your spirits.
GIVE SHIRIN-YOKU A TRY
1. Choose a wooded area for your walk. A forest path is ideal, but a park full of trees or a tree-lined road works, too.
2. Slow down. Breathe. This is not a power walk. Make it a walking meditation. Walk no more than three miles in four hours.
3. Immerse your senses. Smell the air. Feel the sunshine on your skin, the earth under your feet. Look around you. Listen to the breeze in the trees.
4. Wander and explore. Allow yourself to touch trees, pick up fallen leaves, enjoy a freshly bloomed flower. The idea is to “bathe” yourself in the forest.
Photo Credit: Shirin-Yoku/Shutterstock.com