In 1982 Japan launched a national health programme of ‘Shinrin-yoku’. Shinrin –yoku means spending time around trees and some people refer to it as ‘forest-bathing’ and is scientifically proven to improve your health. It’s not about jogging, working out or doing any other type of exercise outdoors, it’s just quiet contemplation near trees. Japan has been studying the physical and psychological effects of ‘forest-bathing’ and the benefits are not just about fresh air. They’ve found that trees emit oils as protection from germs and insects. These oils, called phytoncides, help our immune systems.
Studies found that forests lower our heart and blood pressure and reduce stress hormones. ‘Forest baths’ reduce depression while boosting energy. Some city-dwellers are even joining forest bathing clubs because forests are a balm for urban families, especially children and for those wanting to escape technology. Regular contact with nature really does improve our well-being and should be a cornerstone of preventive health care and maintenance in our society.
Australians are known as a nation of outsiders; citizens that love the outdoor life. While we’ve all probably known intuitively that nature is good for us, we now have scientific studies that are able to demonstrate the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. I’m not talking about city parks and backyards here, I’m talking real wilderness areas. Of course if you can’t get to the forests or out into the bush, urban parks would be the next best thing.
The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include
- Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells.
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced stress
- Improved mood
- Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
- Increased energy level
- Improved sleep
Just as impressive are the results that we are experiencing as we make this part of our regular practice
- Deeper and clearer intuition
- Increased flow of energy
- Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
- Increased flow of eros/life force
- Deepening of friendships
- Overall increase in sense of happiness
Amplify your experience by
- Choosing a forest or park with a good density of trees. For best results, trees should be a minimum of 5 metres tall on land with a tree canopy of over 10 percent and an area greater than 0.5 ha.
- Absorb the forest through your five senses – smell, sight, sound, touch, and taste.
- Avoid exhausting yourself. Rest if you feel tired, drink water or tea if thirsty.
- Take your time. Sit and enjoy the scenery or read a book. The idea is to let the forest work its magic on you.
- If possible, take a spa after the experience.
- For optimum results, a two night/three day forest trip is best.
- For a whole day of forest bathing, stay in the forest about four hours and walk about five kilometres. For half days, stay in the forest about two hours and walk about two and a half kilometres.
Get your forest-bathing fix
- Blue Mountains National Park, 100km west of Sydney CBD
- Royal National Park, 32km from Sydney CBD - try the 4.5km Forest Path
- Barrington Tops National Park, Hunter region
- Toolangi State Forest, Central Highlands
- Sherbrooke Forest, within the Dandenong Ranges, 40km east of Melbourne
- D’Aguilar National Park, 10-35km northwest of Brisbane
- Springbrook National Park, Gold Coast Hinterland, 96km south of Brisbane
- Daintree rainforest, accessible from Cairns, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation
- Ancient Empires Walk at the Valley of the Giants, Rainbow Coast
- Mount Crawford Forest, 1 hour’s drive north of Adelaide
- Holmes Jungle Nature Park, 20km from Darwin city
- Howard Springs Nature Park, 35km from Darwin city
- The Tarkine (Northwest)
- Southwest National Park, 93 km west of Hobart