I enjoy bathing in sunshine and bathing in bubbles. I even bathed in chocolate once at the Hershey Spa as part of their “Everything Chocolate” treatment, which included a Whipped Cocoa Bath, Chocolate Fondue Wrap, Cocoa Massage, and more. But bathing in the forest? Now that was something I had never heard of or considered.
Recently, I came across an article from the Washington Post that identified forest bathing as a hot fitness trend that is gaining traction, like yoga thirty years ago. In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku which translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” The Japanese cover forest therapy under their healthcare insurance and even perform blood-sampling studies to determine the before and after effects of this integrative therapy. Apparently, many trees give off organic compounds that support our natural killer cells that are part of our immune system’s way of fighting cancer. In Japan, only when a forest trail has the desired effect on increasing natural killer cells, will it be ‘certified’ for treatment.
|Partaking in forest bathing with my friends
As a self-proclaimed Nemophilist, I believe in the power of the woods to sooth the nerves and heal. Others agree. Some have proven that the process of soaking up the sights, smells and sounds of a natural setting promotes physiological and psychological health. David Yaden, a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, said “There have been studies comparing walking in nature with walking in an urban environment and testing people on their mood, different aspects of depression, and in some cases, brain scans. In the natural setting, people are more relaxed and less stressed.”
|A perfect place for forest therapy – Ridley Creek State Park
Yet another reason to step away from your desk, leave the building and go for a walk in the woods. And I don’t mean a power walk through the woods. Forest bathing demands you slow down as you meander, breathe and open up all your senses. Yes, that means stopping to smell the roses! According to their website (www.shinrin-yoku.org), this is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy.
|Stopping to smell the roses is a key concept of forest bathing
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced. I believe that as humans we need an escape from the concrete jungle and our indoor spaces. We need the tonic of nature. So pardon me as I leave you here. A sense of urgency has come over me. I have a forest bath to take.