Forest bathing aka shinrin-yoku – lower stress, fight cancer?
This morning while reading the March/April issue of PULSE magazine (thanks ISPA – one of the best issues yet!!), I learned the official term for a natural escape I had known about since I was a little kid – shinrin-yoku.
Growing up in New York City, I always lusted for weekends spent outside in the grassy woods of nearby Connecticut. Driving out to Randall’s and Ward’s Island for 2 hours of stern competition every afternoon was not enough for me. The sheer volume of outdoor activities I wanted to participate in never ended. I would go – thanks Mom and Dad for tolerating my endless need for sports and various outdoor settings AND for always keeping my bike tires inflated! – from soccer to baseball to running up and down the basketball court with whichever of my friends was as excited to be outside playing games as I was. Sports, the outdoors, and competition were things by which I defined myself. They were and are therapy for me, and now I have an official term for that natural stress management, shinrin-yoku. Today, Melissa (aka Momo) and I practice yoga outside in the woods whenever we get the chance.
In 1982 – quite a wonderful year for a multitude of reasons – the Forest Agency of Japan made a concerted effort to encourage a healthy lifestyle and decrease stress levels and put this theory of “forest bathing” to the test. Since then, the practice has been formally recognized as a relaxation and stress management activity in Japan. Incidentally, some studies conducted recently points to forest bathing is also increasing a component of the immune system that fights cancer. Today, one of Aromaflage’s great partners, Amanda Anderson, Wellness Director of Blackberry Farm in the Great Smoky Mountains of Walland Tennessee, encourages these disease fighting health and wellness activities. At this destination of Southern Hospitality and healthy living, several outdoor activities such as Earthfit Endurance Hikes and Deep Healing Woods Yoga – exercised on a platform, where else, but deep in beautiful nature – allow one to escape and treat themselves.
Research about the Japanese practice of forest bathing shows that time spent in nature lowers stress levels – and could even help fight cancer! Even without this data, I love time spent in the woods. Complete sensory immersion in forests and other naturally healing environments encourage our immune systems to become stronger. Get out there, try to momentarily live harmoniously in nature, engage all of your senses – sites, sounds, aromas, sensations – truly bathe in it. Drops in blood pressure. Concentration in mental clarity increases. I am in!
Shinrin-yoku is beautiful in is simplicity – anyone can practice it at any point. Try dis-connecting and giving yourself a couple of hours – even start with 15 minutes.
Is it difficult to leave your phone at home? Of course.
Is it difficult to slow down, put work to the side, and wander in the woods? Of course.
I encourage you to try it. When I was recovering from open-heart surgery, I spent every moment in could in nature, breathing, listening, walking, “bathing.” It came naturally to me during a time when I needed it most.
Get out there and give it a try: you are worth it.