In this article we’ll be exploring the many wonders of Shinrin Yoku and discovering how to ease your mind in the forest.
What Is Shinrin Yoku?
Shinrin Yoku is the Japanese healing art of Forest Bathing.
Forest Bathing doesn’t mean you need to go and find a bath to jump into in the middle of the woods! Although there are some incredible options available if bathing under the stars appeals to you.
Forest Bathing is a holistic therapy that involves spending 2 – 4 hours in the forest, simply being with the trees.
It’s a gentle therapy, that involves experiencing the woodland through all your senses.
How Do You Pronounce Shinrin Yoku?
Shin – din – yock – ooh is how the Japanese say Shinrin Yoku, but English speakers tend to say either shin – rin – yock – ooh or shin- rin -yo-coo.
The Shinrin Yoku Kanji
Kanji are the symbols that are used to form Japanese writing. The Shinrin Yoku symbol, or kanji, looks like this:
What Are The Benefits of Forest Bathing?
The benefits of Shinrin Yoku are quite astonishing. Research from Japan has shown that long-standing health improvements are possible, even from just a couple of hours spent with the trees.
What is quite incredible, is that these health benefits continue long after you’ve left the forest. Indeed, research shows that these effects can last for as long as 30 days!
These health benefits include a significant reduction in cortisol levels (our primary stress hormone), along with improvements in the functioning of the immune, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.
In real terms, this can look like a reduction in blood pressure, an increase in natural killer cells (important for fighting off viruses and tumour cells), and even improvements in COPD.
Along with the improvements to our physical health, forest bathing has also been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of depression too.
Trees and Depression
When our bodies feel better, our minds tend to feel better too.
But it’s not simply the physical improvements that create a sense of being uplifted by time in the forest.
The psychological effects of trees on humans are enormous.
For instance, it’s been shown that tree-lined streets have a role to play in crime reduction.
This is in part due to the calming influence trees have on humans.
Trees provided sanctuary, food, warmth, medicine, and play for our ancestors. Even with all of our modern technology, we still have a deeply wired, evolutionary connection with the forest.
With so many of us living without easy access to woods and forests, this aspect of our evolutionary psychology remains unfulfilled and maybe fuelling our burgeoning mental health issues.
How to Ease Your Mind When You Don't Live Near Trees
Whilst we may be unaware that we yearn for contact with trees (especially if we’ve never had the experience of spending much, if any, time in the woods) our bodies and souls crave that connection with nature.
Nothing beats time spent with living, breathing trees, but there are ways to bring the forest indoors that have both psychological and physiological benefits.
Care For Plants
The easiest way to bring an immediate sense of nature to our environment is by buying a few plants.
Whilst studies have shown that it’s a myth that house plants improve indoor air quality, having natural greenery to rest our eyes on can have a calming effect.
Talking to plants is great for their health, and expressing our feelings verbally is great for ours too, so make sure to have a regular chat with your green friends!
Having a living plant to take care of can also remind us to take better care of ourselves. Life can feel less futile when we know another living being depends on us. Why not consider plants as pets?
Decorate with Forest Colours
in 2017, Pantone named their colour palette Forest Bathing. No doubt designers everywhere rushed out to bring the forest into their client’s homes that year. Take a …. leaf out of their book… and utilise paints, murals and natural images to create a sense of the forest in your living space.
Meditation and Sound Healing
It’s well known that meditation and sound healing both have numerous beneficial impacts on our health and well being. Why not combine the two and add a dose of nature for good measure?
This is exactly what I did when I created my woodland meditation with binaural beats. Recorded in the woods behind my home, at the start of the UK lockdown in March 2020, the birdsong is wonderfully melodious and vibrant.
Closing your eyes and picturing yourself wandering through the forest, birds singing and beck babbling, instantly transports you into nature, even in the hustle and bustle of the city.
Use Japanese Forest Bathing Essential Oils
As an aromatherapist, one of the most exciting things about the Shinrin Yoku research, is that it shows that tree essential oils work almost as well as spending time in the forest.
It’s been shown that Hinoki essential oil has the most Shinrin Yoku like effect on human physiology.
This is why you will find it is the main ingredient in my Spirit of Shinrin Yoku essential oil blend.
When you are unable to get to a forest, this is the next best thing for body, soul and mind.
I wanted to create a truly immersive Shinrin Yoku sensory experience, and after much research I believe I’ve achieved just that with this beautiful Tree of Life gift set. It’s a wonderful combination of so many sensory elements, that will really help to reconnect you to the wonderful world of trees.
Trees really are the planet’s healers!
My Favourite Shinrin Yoku Books
If you’d like to learn more about Shinrin Yoku, you may enjoy this selection of books on the topic.
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Into The Forest – Dr Qing Li
Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Way of Forest Bathing for Health and Relaxation – Yoshifumi Miyazaki
Your Guide to Forest Bathing – M. Amos Clifford
Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You – Sarah Ivens