“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.” – Paracelsus, 16th Century Germany.
How do you feel looking at this image? Relaxed, happy, maybe even invigorated? Congratulations, you just practiced the art of Forest Therapy. I have been practicing Forest Therapy my whole life, however, only over the last few years have I learned that there was an actual term for my love of the forest, and what it was doing for my body. Given the rise of more urban areas, it is especially important to not forget our ancestral habitat, nature. Forest therapy helps you to reconnect with that. Today we will explore what Forest Therapy is and how it began, the benefits of it, the scientific evidence behind it, and how you can start practicing it right now.
The History of Forest Therapy
First, let’s learn a little about Forest Therapy. Forest Therapy is also known as Shinrin-Yoku. This is the Japanese practice of spending time in the forest to enhance one’s own health. Shinrin-Yoku when translated into English literally means “Forest Bathing”.
In 1982, the term Shinrin-Yoku was coined as a marketing ploy by Tomohide Akiyama during his short job as director of the Japanese Forestry Agency. Things changed in 1990 when Dr. Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University was followed by the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation during his small study in the Yakushima Forest.
The benefits of Forest Therapy?
There are several Scientifically proven benefits to Forest Therapy as well as those reported by people who practice it. According to shinrin-yoku.org, people reported feeling:
- Deeper and clearer intuition
- Increased flow of energy
- An increased ability to communicate with the land and the creatures within it
- The increased flow of Eros, which is believed to be your life force
- A deepening of friendships
- And an overall increase in their sense of happiness
Scientifically proven benefits are:
- Reduction in stress
- Reduction in blood pressure
- Improvement to your mood
- An increase in focus, even with children who have ADHD
- Increase in your energy levels
- Improvement in sleep
- Faster recovery from surgeries or illness
- And a boost to your immune system functions, specifically with an increase in the amount of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells which are the bodies disease-fighting agents
Let’s discuss some of the key research that has been conducted by doctors, psychologists, and researchers both past and present.
During the 1800’s, doctor Peter Detweiler and Hermann Brehmer built hospitals in the pine forests of Germany.
At the same time, doctor Edward Trudeau did the same in New York’s Adirondack Forest. Both reported benefits to the forest air. The noticeable benefits of nature are still examined by researchers to this day.
Chiba University has obtained psychological as well as physiological data on nearly 500 adults. Another 500 adults were also studied by another group located in Kyoto Japan.
In a more recent 2010 study conducted at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, they examine the effects of a plant within view of an office space.
Furthermore, it has been proven that trees contain antimicrobial oils called phytoncides, and according to Qing Li, a Japanese researcher, those oils increase our NK cells naturally.
How can you get started today?
Go into a forest, and just stop. Breathe in slowly, look around, take in all that nature has to offer using all your senses. Meditating is one of the best ways to truly get the most benefit out of forest bathing. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time either, incorporate it into your everyday life.
On Forest Therapy Today, they list 9 ways you can reconnect with nature. Some of those are:
- Going to a park
- While walking down the street you can touch the bark on the trees as you pass by them. This grounds yourself while getting a healthy electrical charge
- Plant something in your yard
- Go camping
- Viewing pictures of nature can help
Earthing is the practice of walking barefoot on the ground, also called grounding. When doing so, this allows the soles of your feet to absorb the negative ions from Mother Earth. You do this by the energy vortexes, aka chakras, that are located in the soles of your feet to connect with the energy being picked up by your Earth Star chakra. This energy is then absorbed into the body, and dispersed to areas that may be in need of this vital life force.
In an article written by Miyazaki et al, their research has shown that a room with a 30-40% ratio of wood has similar effects as Forest bathing. Placing plants in your home can also be beneficial. You can also use a combination of essential oil scents, such as citrus and pine, to mimic the smell of trees.
It’s only natural to love nature
Today I have gone over what Forest Therapy is, the benefits of it, the scientific evidence behind it, and how you can practice it in your life. I hope you now all have a better understanding of the ancient art of Forest Therapy and will go home tonight inspired to pack up your gear and get outside. With depression affecting 1 in 10 Americans, there is no better time to start than now.
As Albert Einstein once said, “Look Deep into Nature, and then You will understand everything better.”
For more information, please visit Healing Hands