Now that it’s springtime, it’s time to get outside.
Getting out in nature is good for your body and your mind. Lately, there’s been a trend of “Forest Bathing,” which is a Japanese concept of spending time in nature. The term shinrin-yoku was coined by Tomohide Akiyama, who worked in the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in the early 1980s.
Forrest Bathing simply means “the practice of intentionally connecting to nature as a way to heal.”
“It’s been scientifically shown that spending more time in nature,” writes author Julia Plevin, “reduces stress, lowers heart rate, lowers cortisol levels, decreases inflammation, boosts the immune system, improves mood, increases the ability to focus, jump-starts creativity, and increases energy levels.”
In other words, spending time outside, especially in a natural environment, has tremendous positive spiritual and health effects.
Other cultures apart from the Japanese have noted the impact of nature on human health. In Norway, for instance, “this philosophy of passion for nature is known as friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv), which translates into ‘open-air living.’”
There are several techniques to help a person prepare to forest bathe. Plevin has some suggestions such as “show up,” “tread lightly,” and “say a prayer for the forest.” The author says that studies have shown that “earthing,” or to “contact the earth directly with your feet – in the soil, grass, sand, moss, anything – can help reduce inflammation and chronic pain, reduce stress, improve energy, and improve sleep.”
You might ask yourself: Why does spending time in nature feel good?
One answer that both Plevin and another author, Marco Nieri, hit upon: That humans have spent 99.5% of their time on this planet as a species outside. In other words, early hunter-gatherers and later agriculture societies spent most of their time carving out a living outside, not indoors. Contemporary culture, where we spend most of our time working indoors, is only a relatively recent development. Again, most of human history has taken place in nature, so it only makes sense that our brains still respond positively to this experience.
Finally, taking some time to forest bathe will do you some good this summer.
Plevin, J. The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing. Ten Speed Press. New York, NY.