Well, it’s not hiking, which usually intends a destination.
Shinrin-yoku dwells in the here and now presence and connection with nature. The time spent is slow and unhurried; and traditionally takes a few hours (although it is noted that even 10-20 minutes in the woods has health benefits.)
In the Guide to Forest Bathing (Clifford 10-11), the author reminds us to consider the modern times we are in.
Contrast our times with the agrarian times of Henry David Thoureau, who wrote:
“Walking – I think I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least-sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” (Clifford 10).
Spending time in the woods in silence using all of our senses
When we open all of our senses with awareness, we are able to relax our nervous system by connecting to the energy of the woods and nature.
See…the vast green vistas all the way down to the smallest patterns; or light & shadows falling across the trail. Hear…the wind in the trees. The woodpeckers. The frogs calling to each other in springtime. Taste…the sprig of mint or the blackberries growing along the trail. Touch and Feel…the soft tree trunk of the cedar. The soft pedal of the wildflower. The shaped rock. Smell…the lavender. The smoke off the wood pile. The sun on your arm. Green tree leaves after a rain. (Clifford 41-85).
“Shinrin-Yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.” – Dr Qing Li
In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of forestry’s director, Tomohide Akiyama invented the term, “Forest Bathing.” (Clifford 5).
It was later in 2004, that scientific studies began to correlate time in the forest and in natural spaces, with multitudes of health benefits.
Why Forest Bathing BoostsOur Immune System
Phytocides are natural oils that trees use to protect themselves from disease and insects. When we breathe them in, our bodies react by creating more white blood cells (a specific type called natural killer cells.) (Clifford 17).
There are also microbes in the soil that we breathe in which boosts our emotional states and help us feel more joy. Even looking at nature increases anti-inflammatory cytokines which also boost our immune systems. (Qing 102-106).
Spending time with nature allows us to focus, by taking the pressure off our cognitive brain. Looking at streams, and walking under trees, listening to birds and touching plants along a trail are all we need to reconnect and receive vast health benefits.