“Between a human and a tree is the breath. We are each other’s air.” —Margaret Bates
Did you know that trees are among the world’s greatest healers? Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is the Japanese practice of going to the forest to receive mental and physical healing.
Forest plants emit essential wood oils and airborne chemicals to protect themselves from insects and decay. Research has shown that forest aromas benefit humans as well.
Studies from Japan, Finland, the United States and other countries have shown that forest bathing can greatly reduce stress, increase joy level, lower blood pressure, improve concentration, strengthen the immune system, builds up vitality, and has powerful anti-cancer benefits.
All cultures recognize that trees uplift the human spirit. To ancient people, trees were channels for the gods, and forests were humankind’s first temples and sanctuaries.
Trees, living high in the sky, receive 95 percent of their sustenance from the atmosphere. Drawing nourishment from the sun and sky, trees express a divine benevolence. Buddhist scriptures speak of the unlimited kindness of trees—how they give generously, and offer protection and shelter to all beings.
Forest bathing allows us to immerse ourselves in the benevolent and healing power of trees. All plants have phytoncides—active substances with antimicrobial properties that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, microscopic fungi and protozoa. Some trees release into the atmosphere volatile phytoncides that are capable of producing an effect at a distance.
Studies have shown that the air in coniferous forests, and particularly in young pine forests, is particularly sterile and free of harmful microflora.
In 1982, the director of the Japanese Forest Agency hypothesized that “bathing” in a phytoncide-rich environment would promote better health. He proposed the idea of forest bathing for relaxing the mind and for stress management.
In 2004, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries initiated scientific studies to prove the therapeutic effects forests have on human health. These studies showed positive results for numerous areas of physical health. Since then, other studies conducted in the U.S. and Europe have found the same results.
In Japan today there are 42 approved Forest Therapy Bases offering mental and physical healing. At some sites, forest therapy patients stay for two nights, during which they receive a medical checkup upon arrival, spend their free time walking in the woods and have a final checkup before leaving. Patients typically see significant improvement on their final exam. Many Japanese companies include forest therapy in their employee health-care benefits and wellness programs.
—Joseph Cornell from "The Sky and Earth Touched Me"
In my book, "The Sky and Earth Touched Me", I created a Forest Bathing activity to help people consciously draw more inspiration and deepen their rapport with trees.
Download my Forest Bathing activity
For more information about forest bathing research, please check out these articles.
1/24/2017 11:23:49 pm
Wow! Sounds cool!
1/25/2017 12:19:46 am
Yes, Phiroza it is very cool! Dont' forget to download the Forest Bathing activity to try for yourself. :)
2/6/2017 12:32:06 pm
I love Forest Bathing and I offered it to guests at Post Ranch in Big Sur in late Novermber. We had rainie days walking in redwood forests, standing inside the giants and oak woodlands, and orchards. Everyone was able to feel the different trees, eco systems, taste the editable plants - we even made a living tea with gathered herbs. As it rained we could hear the forest waking up and singing with joy- all the moss and ferns danced before our eyes!
6/8/2017 11:26:44 pm
Hi! May I know how exactly do I utilize the Forest Bathing pdf? If I were to conduct forest bathing for a group of 10 people, do I read it out as instructions for them? Like how people conduct meditation session?
6/9/2017 09:51:11 am
6/12/2017 06:54:32 pm
6/12/2017 09:16:28 pm
Yes! As for the time, you may need to shorten or lengthen it depending on how engaged the group is. Good luck!
8/1/2017 04:32:26 am
I've been a docent at Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu for some time now. I've developed a relationship with the incredible trees there. I believe they are sentient entities & have experienced the physical and mental healing they so freely give.
1/31/2018 11:19:28 pm
Thanks for writing this interesting article on forest bathing.I was amazed after reading this article.Ones again thanks a lot.
1/7/2021 05:21:15 am
First time reading much appreciate it
3/8/2021 07:39:48 pm
Nature can truly heal and nurture our wounded hearts and rebalance our mind.
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10/29/2022 03:57:45 am
Brilliant article, thank you! I found the section about our ancestors connection to trees particularly fascinating! :) We have so much to learn from those who trod the earth before us. Sometimes in our modern world we assume that we know everything, but I feel we are missing the deep rooted connection to nature our ancestors will have had. As you can see.... https://bit.ly/AtlasVistas I spend a lot of time in forests looking for rivers and streams :) However I do sometimes forget to slow down and appreciate where I am. I'll definitely following your practice guide next time so thank you so much for putting it together! :) Once again, thank you for such a wonderful post!
1/17/2023 10:11:13 pm
Pruning or removing trees can be dangerous work, so we definitely recommend hiring a professional arborist.
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