Forest Bathing

I am teaching an online course at Royal Roads University and one of the topics of last week was Work Life Balance. In one of the discussion forums a student posted the following about walking in nature. It is an excerpt from an article published in Alive magazine.

“Shinrin-Yoku – or translated from Japanese means “forest bathing”. Spending a short, leisurely time in a forest setting, for the purpose of absorbing the forest’s healing ambience. Key to the experience is the inhalation of wood essential oils, similar to natural aromatherapy, but visual, auditory, and other sensory stimuli are also important.

The result? A host of health benefits, including a boosted immune system, an increase in cancer battling proteins, and improved blood pressure, among others. Studies have also found psychological benefits, with forest bathers seeing significant increases in positive feelings and decreases in negative feeling.
It is fair to say, then, forest bathing is good for both the body and the spirit, and while studies have so far found some of these benefits only appear after subjects have spent two to three days in the forest, some benefits appear after a mere half hour.

Japanese researchers examined the physiological response of 280 subjects to relatively brief encounters with 24 forests. For each forest, sic subjects spent approximately 30 minutes walking and gazing, while six others spent an equivalent amount of time in an urban area.

Those who were exposed to forest settings had a greatly improved cortisol (stress) levels, pulse rates, blood pressure, and parasympathetic nerve activity levels versus those who were exposed to urban settings.

Related Japanese studies show similar benefits, from boosting intracellular anticancer proteins in female subjects to improving the body’s immune function naturally.

I went for a forest walk yesterday. Walking along the water and in the forest is one of the many things I love about living where I do.  I am fortunate enough to live and work a spitting distance away from nature and it is something I am always grateful for.

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