shinrin-yoku means forest bathing or taking in the forest atmosphere.
Emerging from Japan during the 1980s alongside the Japanese art of mindfulness, emphasising a lingering in the present moment, this restorative and engaging health practice incorporating a range of nature-based interventions, is becoming a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in the health care systems across the globe.
In Japan it is called shinrin-yoku (森林浴) or shinrin-roho (森林療法), in Korea it is referred to as sanlimyok (산림욕) and in China people call it senlín liáofǎ (森林療法)
Forest Therapy has its origins as far back as humans go. For millennia we were born and raised in these natural environments and getting out there now to experience Forest Bathing (Forest Therapy) is a way of reminding ourselves of that. It is not a hike or strenuous walk, but rather a journey of sensory and creative experiences in a beautiful natural outdoor space, where we have an opportunity to slow down and reconnect with nature.
To go forest bathing is simply to immerse yourself in nature, soaking up the sights, sounds, touches and smells of the great outdoors.
The Theories behind all this...
Forest therapy is a guided outdoor healing practice that has been inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. There are a variety of theories that underpin and support the proposals that forest therapy has beneficial effects on psychological and physical wellbeing. These theories include the Biophilia Hypothesis, Attention Restoration Theory, and Psychophysiological Stress Recovery Theory.
The Biophilia Hypothesis argues that since our ancestors evolved in wild settings and relied on the environment for survival, we have an innate drive to connect with nature. The Attention Restoration Theory claims that looking at natural landscapes, such as beaches, forest or mountain landscapes will allow for your mind to sit in the default mode network, to wander freely and thereby relaxing the stringent focus of everyday life. The Psychophysiological Stress Recovery Theory proposes that when people are psychologically or physically stressed, then exposure to unthreatening natural environments will reduce stress and have a restorative effect⁵.
More about these theories...
The Biophilia Hypothesis suggests that humans have an innate desire to connect with nature because our ancestors evolved in wild settings and relied on the environment for survival. Biophilia is defined as "the love of life or living systems" and suggests that humans have an instinctive bond with other living organisms. This bond is thought to be responsible for the positive effects of forest therapy on psychological and physical wellbeing.
Attention Restoration Theory
The Attention Restoration Theory proposes that looking at natural landscapes, such as beaches, forest or mountain landscapes will allow for your mind to sit in the default mode network, to wander freely and thereby relaxing the stringent focus of everyday life. This can lead to improved cognitive function and reduced stress. The default mode network is a network of brain regions that are active when a person is not focused on the outside world.
Psychophysiological Stress Recovery Theory
This theory proposes that when people are psychologically or physically stressed, then exposure to unthreatening natural environments will reduce stress and have a restorative effect. This effect is thought to be due to the fact that natural environments are perceived as less threatening than urban environments. The restorative effect of natural environments has been shown to be mediated by changes in physiological measures such as heart rate variability, cortisol levels, and blood pressure.
Source: Conversation with Bing, 2/4/2023(1) Can forest therapy enhance health and well-being?. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-forest-therapy-enhance-health-and-well-being-2020052919948 Accessed 2/4/2023.
(2) The Theories Underpinning Forest Bathing and Nature-Connection. https://silvotherapy.co.uk/articles/the-theories-underpinning-forest-bathing-and-nature-connection Accessed 2/4/2023.
(3) Nurtured by nature - American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature Accessed 2/4/2023.
(4) Attention restoration theory - Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_restoration_theory Accessed 2/4/2023.
(5) The Shared Theories of Forest Bathing and Care Farming - Darach Croft. https://darachcroft.com/news/the-shared-theories-supporting-forest-bathing-and-care-farming Accessed 2/4/2023.
(6) Why Forest Therapy Can Be Good for Your Body and Mind. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-forest-therapy-can-be-good-for-your-body-and-mind/ Accessed 2/4/2023.
(7) The theoretical foundations of wilderness therapy. https://scholarworks.smith.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2224&context=theses Accessed 2/4/2023.
(8) Biophilic Design Rationale: Theory, Methods, and Applications. https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/15369/biophilic-design-rationale-theory-methods-and-applications Accessed 2/4/2023.
(9) Frontiers | Is it Really Nature That Restores People? A Comparison With .... https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02742/full Accessed 2/4/2023.
(10) The Role of Nature in Coping with Psycho-Physiological Stress: A .... https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4287696/ Accessed 2/4/2023.
(11) Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Forest therapy and emotion. https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Motivation_and_emotion/Book/2020/Forest_therapy_and_emotion Accessed 2/4/2023.
There is a growing body of research that suggests that green spaces can have a positive impact on human health and well-being. For example, scientific literature describes various ways in which the natural environment can positively affect human health and well-being, as natural areas offer opportunities for physical activity, social contacts and stress reduction. An increasing number of epidemiological studies have demonstrated various positive health effects of maintaining urban green spaces, including improved mental health and reduced depression; improved pregnancy outcomes; and lower rates of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, obesity and diabetes.
A study conducted by researchers in the UK found that living in an urban area with green spaces has a long-lasting positive impact on people's mental well-being. The study found that moving to a green space had a sustained positive effect, unlike pay rises or promotions, which only provided a short-term boost. Another study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter found that parks, gardens and green space in urban areas can improve the wellbeing and quality of life of people living there. Using data from 5,000 UK households over 17 years, researchers found that living in a greener area had a significant positive effect.
Green space also provides places for social interaction, both planned and incidental, and facilitates community connections and wellbeing. This is important for feelings of safety, neighbourhood satisfaction and positive mental health, and can help to reduce social isolation.
Green Spaces: An Invaluable Resource for Delivering Sustainable Urban Health. (n.d.). United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/green-spaces-invaluable-resource-delivering-sustainable-urban-health
Living in green areas boosts wellbeing, says study. (2014, January 12). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-25682368
Green spaces boosts wellbeing of urban dwellers - study. (2013, April 22). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-22214070
Built environment and health - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (n.d.). Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/built-environment-and-health
the idea is simple
if a person simply visits a natural area
and walks in a relaxed way there are calming,
rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.
Do this with a trained Guide, and the experience is enhanced