The Healing Power of Shinrin-yoku
In just the past few years, a new phenomenon has been growing: Shinrin-yoku. Shinrin-yoku is the act of taking in the forest, or “Forest Bathing.” It is a powerful healing tool backed by an impressive number of studies.
Forest bathing has been found to deliver a number of benefits, from lowering blood pressure and easing stress, to boosting immunity and possibly even increasing lifespan. Scientists aren't sure why it works yet. You don't even need to be walking to get the benefits.
Shinrin-yoku was strictly a Japanese therapy just a few years ago, but as more and more hard evidence is coming to light, other countries are starting to adopt programs of their own.
How Forest Therapy Works
Shinrin-yoku involves spending time under a forest canopy. The goal isn't to exercise or meditate, but to set aside your busy thoughts and simply be. A Shinrin-yoku therapist can help guide you through the process by urging you to listen to the sound of the trees, smell the scents of the forest, notice the birds in the trees. By simply being in the forest, real physical healing takes place.
Right now, Americans spend 87% of their time indoors, and another 6% of their time in vehicles. That's a lot of time indoors, away from sunlight, fresh air, and bird sounds. In terms of human evolution, spending so little time outdoors has been happening for just a fraction of a second. It makes a certain amount of sense that our bodies may have adapted to benefit from exposure to the outdoors.
How long do you need to forest bathe to get the benefits?
For some people, taking a walk in the forest could be as simple as heading out to their backyard. For others, it means a trip out of the city and maybe even a significant drive. If forest bathing takes a long time to benefit from, or only benefits you for a short while, it obviously may not be worth while to some people.
Luckily, scientists have also been able to determine that the benefits are long lasting. A weekend getaway to the woods can benefit forest bathers for as long as a month afterwards, and just 30 minutes under the trees can start lowering stress, and your heart rate, almost immediately.
Forest bathing gives you a break from the constant busyness of life, and allows you to relax and step away from the phone, the computer, and our amped up lives. Our bodies are naturally meant for a slower pace, and burning the candle at both ends simply isn't healthy.
If you find yourself trapped in a daily cycle of work to home with no break from high-tech living, a trip to the forest can help you unwind and maybe even live a longer life. The forest is its own therapist, and by visiting it, you can help center yourself and relax in a way the very best psychologists may not be able to reach.
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