Trees are fab!
As a child I was enchanted by them. I’d imagine them to life like the Ents in Lord of the Rings. I wanted to live among the branches with Moonface and friends in The Magic Faraway Tree. And the copse at the bottom of my garden was the best place to build dens and play with the fairies.
And I still enjoy being surrounded by trees. There’s nothing like walking through a dense, quiet pine forest breathing in the cool scented air. Or skipping lightly through a woodland glade dappled by sunshine, birds chirping brightly up above.
There’s no doubt about it, trees make me feel good.
The science bit: why trees make you feel good
According to science trees produce an organic compound called phytoncide to protect themselves from germs and insects. And it hangs about in the air near trees. These essential oils don’t just smell wonderful – think of a fresh pine forest – but they also make our immune systems function better when inhaled. Even helping our bodies fight off cancer!
And it doesn’t stop there…
Forests also help people feel more rested and less inclined to stress. Being around trees lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and decreases pulse rates and blood pressure. Put simply trees soothe your spirit.
Even brief exposure improves our immune system function and wellbeing. Especially if done regularly.
But how do you make the most of trees’ healing properties?
Forest bathing: how to embrace the healing power of trees
What is forest bathing?
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is simply ‘being in the presence of trees.’ You walk in a relaxed way taking in the forest atmosphere to calm, rejuvenate and restore. It’s not about doing or achieving. Don’t take photos, don’t count your steps or monitor your speed. Instead sit, meander and relax.
The Japanese coined the term in the 1980s. And based on robust scientific data on the benefits of being in a forest it is now an essential part of preventative healthcare in Japanese medicine.
But ongoing research is helping establish the practice worldwide, including the UK.
Where can I go forest bathing?
I know, this sounds like a silly question. But you don’t always need a full blown forest. Anywhere with trees will do.
For a bit of DIY forest bathing find anywhere peaceful where you can walk under trees. I often go to the local park because there are beeches and horse chestnut trees around the edge. It’s an easy relaxing walk along flat paths next to the trees. But for a more immersive experience, and to get the full benefit of phytoncide-rich air, I often wander off the path so I’m right under the branches.
Perhaps there is a park that you can get to easily for a regular short walk. Or if you’re lucky enough to live near a ‘proper’ forest get out in that.
But if you want a more organised approach there are places springing up all over the UK where you can give forest bathing a go.
- shinrin-yoku.org has several experiences on offer combining leisurely walks, gentle paths and trees. Although similar to DIY forest bathing they also include guided activities to heighten your sensual awareness and help you enjoy the forest in a new way. Plus mindfulness meditation and group discussions.
- Some holiday companies now offer forest bathing. As well as a guided walk the Forest Holidays experience ends with a tea ceremony using foraged plants.
- And there are many more…
Will forest bathing help you?
My own experience tells me forest bathing will make you feel good and help you function better.
Although I’ve not tried organised forest bathing I have been doing the DIY version for a while. And it’s now an important part of my routine. Making time and space to get outside with the trees, slow down and be has helped me feel better. I’m more relaxed in body and mind – my muscles are less tense and I don’t worry as much as I used to. I function better in all areas of life, work included.
So why wouldn’t forest bathing help you too?
Don’t believe me? Get outside and try it.
Love those trees!
- Trees are good for you. The science proves it.
- Being around trees can help you heal physically, mentally and emotionally.
- I have experienced trees’ healing power and you can benefit too.
- Try forest bathing – DIY or organised experiences.
- Just published: ‘Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing’ by Dr Quing Li
- Also just published: ‘Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You’ by Sarah Ivens
- For more about the science: https://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/
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