Why you need “forest bathing” in your life

Petar Paunchev/Shutterstock

the health value of being around trees has been demonstrated through scientific studies time and time again

Imagine yourself in a forest.

Dmitry Polonskiy/Shutterstock

You’re surrounded by the green of leaves, and an aura of sunlight filters through the branches. You hear the rustle of wind in the trees and smell the woodsy combination of pine and earth. Take a deep breath. Feels good, right?

That healthy, peaceful feeling you get from being in the forest is the idea behind forest bathing, the practice of spending time in the woods for relaxation and health benefits. Forest bathing (AKA Shinrin-yoku) originated in Japan in the 1980s, when the Forest Agency of Japan introduced a program encouraging people to incorporate trips to natural areas into their lifestyle. Their idea was that spending time “bathing” in the sights and sounds of nature was therapeutic, and they weren’t wrong.

Most of us can inherently feel the benefits of spending time in nature, and beyond that, the health value of being around trees has been demonstrated through scientific studies time and time again. One study found that even looking at photos of the forest decreased participants’ blood pressure. In another, half of the participants walked in a forested area while the other half walked in a train station. It’s probably no surprise that the people who walked in the forest had a lower cortisol (that’s the stress hormone) concentration.

One important distinction to make is that forest bathing is about spending time in nature, not necessarily exercising or “achieving.” We all know the value of spending quality time with family, friends, and even ourselves. Forest bathing takes this one step further, acknowledging the importance of spending quality time with nature. The goal isn’t to climb a mountain, complete a jog, or tackle a tough hike, but simply to be with trees, plants, and animals, making a connection with the organic world.

Twin Sails/Shutterstock

Philosopher John Muir said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” It seems that the clearest way into yourself and your own wellbeing may also lie in the forest. Regularly incorporating some tree time into your week will ground you emotionally, benefit you physically, and get you away from those ubiquitous screens.

So next time you’re stressed, go out for a wander in the trees. Compared to most medicine, a walk in the park a will go down nice and easy.