Shinrin-yoku (Japanese: 森林浴, 森林 (shinrin, “forest”) + 浴 (yoku, “bath, bathing”)), also known as forest bathing, is a practice or process of therapeutic relaxation where one spends time in a forest or natural atmosphere, focusing on sensory engagement to connect with nature.

Example of practicing shinrin-yoku

The practice has gained popularity in various regions in the United States, particularly in California.[1] Shinrin-yoku can be seen as similar to other adopted east-to-west health trends, such as yoga and meditation, in that it has been linked to numerous health benefits and can be performed solo, guided, and/or with others.

History edit

Antiquity edit

The first works related to silvicotherapy go back to antiquity. According to Pliny the Elder, "the smell of the forest where peach and resin are collected [therefore coniferous forests] is extremely salutary to the phthicists and to those who, after a long illness, have difficulty recovering. "[2]

Middle-Age edit

In the Middle Ages, terpenoids present in the forest atmosphere, especially conifers, in the form of oleoresins (these secondary metabolites found in camphor and turpentine, are chemical defences of plants against herbivores) were used to treat certain diseases (analgesic, sedative, bronchodilator, antitussive, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and relaxing effect).[2]

Since the 19th century edit

Finland edit

The Finnish Forest Association along with the Finnish Forest Therapy Centre promotes forest therapy and provides organized activities for forest visitors to practice it. These activities focus on well-being and mind and body recovery. Visitors include various groups, companies, and communities.[3]

Japan edit

Japan, being two thirds covered in forest, is filled with greenery and a vast diversity of trees. Residing there is the Hokkaido region, Japan’s last great wilderness, and the Japanese Alps, filled with mountain ranges and thick pine forests. The term shinrin-yoku was coined in 1982 by Tomohide Akiyama, who was the director of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.[4][5] After several studies were conducted in Japan during the 1980s, forest bathing was seen to be an effective therapy method.[6] Akiyama knew of these studies along with the findings that showed the beneficial health effects of the compounds, such as phytoncides, and of the essential oils that certain trees and plants emitted.[7] Thus, he officially put forward shinrin-yoku as a recognized practice, promoting its benefits to the Japanese public and establishing guidelines for its implementation.

Shinrin-yoku was developed as a response to the increasing urbanization and technological advancements in Japan, and was put forth to inspire the Japanese public to reconnect with nature within Japan and as a means to protect the forests.[8] It was reasoned that if people spent time in forests and were able to find therapeutic comfort within it, they would want to protect it.

South-Korea edit

In 2009, The Korea Forest Service opened Saneum National Recreational Forest, the first therapeutic forest. Since then, they have opened more, and by 2020, there were 32 therapeutic forests in South Korea.[9]

United States edit

The U.S. Forest Service put forth forest therapy where there are certified guides for the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. These certified guides conduct two hour sessions in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rainforest where they bring along participants to experience the powerful effect of forest therapy.[10]

Practice edit

Practicing shinrin-yoku means spending time in nature, amongst the trees and grass, and mindfully engaging within a forest atmosphere or other natural environments. It is usually done by walking through a forest at a slow and gentle pace, without carrying any electronics, and taking the time to soak up the surrounding nature.[11]

It involves using all five senses, and letting nature enter through those senses. Some examples of exercising this can include:[11]

  • Listening to forest sounds, i.e. birds and insects.
  • Touching the ground, the trees, and the leaves.
  • Smelling the flowers and other essential oils of the plants and trees.
  • Observing the surroundings and scenery
  • Tasting the crispiness of the air while breathing

Reported health benefits edit

Immune system booster edit

Many experiments have hypothesized the positive effects of shinrin-yoku on the immune system.[12] It was shown that shinrin-yoku was associated with increasing levels of natural killer (NK) cells, which are important in combating infection.[5]

Mental health and mood improvement edit

Shinrin-yoku is linked to a recharging of positive energy, higher energy levels, and a purification of negative thoughts. Breathing the air in a forest environment maximizes the intake of negative ions, which are invisible molecules in the air, that help to increase health, mood, mental clarity, cognitive functioning, and energy levels.[13]The positive effect of the forest environment, is demonstrated also with the use of Virtual reality (VR).[14]

Decrease in blood pressure and stress edit

Participants of conducted studies were seen experiencing a decrease in pulse rate, blood pressure, and concentration of the stress hormone cortisol while walking through a forest for even just a few hours.[5][15] The power of the essential oils emitted within plant life in forests can reduce stress with the decrease in cortisol concentration.[13]

Challenging the effects edit

In 1985, a French water and forestry engineer, Georges Plaisance, published a book on the subject: Forêt et santé.[16] However, it is not a scientific publication, but a personal reflection published by a youth publisher.

According to a podcast organized by RTS in 2023, “from a scientific point of view, the understanding of the mechanisms that drive these effects is in its infancy. ”[17]

According to an article in Le Figaro, the physical activity and relaxation induced by walking would explain these positive effects rather than the environment itself. Some feel that the subject has a strong cultural dimension in Japan, not necessarily reproducible elsewhere.[18]

See also edit

  • ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

References edit

  1. ^ Kim, Meeri (May 17, 2016). "'Forest bathing' is latest fitness trend to hit U.S. — 'Where yoga was 30 years ago'". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  2. ^ a b Société d'écologie humaine, ed. (1999). L'homme et la forêt tropicale. Travaux de la Société d'écologie humaine. Châteauneuf-de-Grasse: Éd. de Bergier. ISBN 978-2-9511840-5-3.
  3. ^ "Home - Metsäterapiakeskus". Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  4. ^ Li, Dr Qing (2018-04-05). Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing. Penguin UK. ISBN 978-0-241-34696-9.
  5. ^ a b c Miyazaki, Yoshifumi (2018-06-12). Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing. Timber Press. ISBN 978-1-60469-879-4.
  6. ^ Garcia, Hector; Miralles, Francesc (2020). Forest Bathing: The Rejuvenating Practice of Shinrin Yoku. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-4-8053-1600-9.
  7. ^ Plevin, Julia (2019). The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World. Ten Speed Press. pp. 17–19. ISBN 9780399582110.
  8. ^ "Forest bathing: what it is and where to do it". Travel. 2019-10-18. Archived from the original on February 28, 2021. Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  9. ^ Park, Sujin; Kim, Soojin; Kim, Geonwoo; Choi, Yeji; Kim, Eunsoo; Paek, Domyung (January 2021). "Evidence-Based Status of Forest Healing Program in South Korea". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 18 (19): 10368. doi:10.3390/ijerph181910368. ISSN 1660-4601. PMC 8508093. PMID 34639668.
  10. ^ "Volunteers experience the power of service and healing in the rainforest". US Forest Service. 2020-01-06. Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  11. ^ a b sal. "Aromatherapy and shinrin-yoku". Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  12. ^ Antonelli, Michele; Donelli, Davide; Carlone, Lucrezia; Maggini, Valentina; Firenzuoli, Fabio; Bedeschi, Emanuela (2022-08-03). "Effects of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) on individual well-being: an umbrella review". International Journal of Environmental Health Research. 32 (8): 1842–1867. Bibcode:2022IJEHR..32.1842A. doi:10.1080/09603123.2021.1919293. ISSN 0960-3123. PMID 33910423. S2CID 233446922.
  13. ^ a b Li, Dr Qing (2018-04-17). Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-525-55985-6.
  14. ^ Clemente, Davide; Romano, Luciano; Zamboni, Elena; Carrus, Giuseppe; Panno, Angelo (2024). "Forest therapy using virtual reality in the older population: a systematic review". Frontiers in Psychology. 14. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1323758. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 10828037. PMID 38298360.
  15. ^ Ideno, Yuki; Hayashi, Kunihiko; Abe, Yukina; Ueda, Kayo; Iso, Hiroyasu; Noda, Mitsuhiko; Lee, Jung-Su; Suzuki, Shosuke (2017-08-16). "Blood pressure-lowering effect of Shinrin-yoku (Forest bathing): a systematic review and meta-analysis". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 17 (1): 409. doi:10.1186/s12906-017-1912-z. ISSN 1472-6882. PMC 5559777. PMID 28814305.
  16. ^ Plaisance, Georges (1985). Forêt et santé: guide pratique de sylvothérapie: découvrez les effets bienfaisants de la forêt sur le corps et l'esprit. Écologie et survie. St.-Jean-de-Braye: Éd. Dangles. ISBN 978-2-7033-0278-0.
  17. ^ "Podcast - Peut-on se soigner avec un arbre?". (in French). 2023-09-06. Retrieved 2024-01-21.
  18. ^ "Faire des câlins aux arbres, une nouvelle escroquerie «médicale»". Le Figaro Santé (in French). 2018-06-13. Retrieved 2024-01-21.