According to Science, ‘Forest Bathing’ Has Proven Health Benefits

When I first heard the term forest bathing, I imagined a group of outdoor diehards from “Survivor” searching for creative ways to shower beneath pine trees. But forest bathing isn’t a physical cleansing practice. It’s an emotional one.

The term comes from the Japanese word “Shinrin-yoku,” which means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” This Japanese-based practice began in 1982 when the agriculture ministry of Japan promoted nature as a form of eco-therapy, or healing that happens by spending time in nature.

Heal with a little bit of woodland therapy

“The ministry promoted forest therapy because several years of research showed that it had health benefits,” says Susan Joachim, a forest therapy guide in Melbourne, Australia.

One study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine discovered that people who spent time in the forest had lower cortisol levels, lower pulse rates, and lower blood pressure than those who walked in the city. They also had lower stress levels. And this wasn’t from just one experiment. The researchers conducted field experiments in 24 different forests throughout Japan with 280 participants.

While the forest is a serene place of picturesque beauty, the healing benefits come from more than its atmosphere. Joachim says that trees release phytoncides, which are antibacterial compounds that protect the topiaries, or plants pruned into shapes, from diseases and tumorous growths. According to the Forest Therapy Association of the Americas, this substance boosts the immune system and increases the body’s count of Natural Killer (NK) cells, which helps us fight off illnesses. As people spend time in nature, they also absorb this curative tincture.




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