Shinrin Yoku is the traditional practice of immersing yourself in nature by using all five senses. It’s planned and purposeful. In English, Shinrin Yoku is loosely translated as Forest Bathing or fully taking in the forest environment through sight, sound, touch, smell, and if you know what you’re doing, taste. (Remember, many plants are adapted to protect themselves through toxins. Never eat a plant outside unless you know exactly what you’re eating and how it will affect you.)
In the 1980s, Shinrin Yoku surfaced as an essential component of preventive health care by benefiting both physiological and psychological systems. Almost 40 years later, it’s used around the world by individuals driven to live healthy lives in a chaotic and stressful world. It’s also practiced in Nature Therapy sessions facilitated by guides who help people be mindful of the natural world around them.
Since the term was coined in the 80s, Japanese scientists have been measuring the physiological affects of nature on people and are beginning to identify the mechanisms that underlie those benefits.
Here are some of the positive physiological effects people get from being in nature:
- Reduced heart rate – Lee et al., 2015; Ochiai et al., 2015; Tsunetsugu et al, 2007
- Reduced blood pressure – Lee et al., 2015; Koga & Iwasaki, 2013; Sung et al., 2012
- Reduced cortisol levels (a hormone released during stress) – Sung et al., 2012; Kabayashi & Miyazaki, 2015
- Increased natural killer cells (improved immune function) – Li et al., 2008
- Reduced blood glucose levels (for Type II Diabetics) – Ohtsuka chapter in Forest Medicine, 2012
Here are some of the positive psychological effects people get from being in nature:
- Decrease in depressed state – McCaffrey et al., 2010
- Improved spiritual health – Nakau et al., 2013
- Decreased emotional distress from chronic pain – Han et al., 2016; Kang et al., 2015
This is just some of the evidence that supports Shinrin Yoku as a method for improving personal health. The field of study is still relatively young and there is a lot more to learn. Stay posted!
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Thanks for reading,