You’re meandering through a lush forest. It’s quiet and still. The sunlight filters through the tall branches and dapples the forest floor with patches of light. The occasional cry of a bird reaches your ears. So far away from technology and media, it’s only you and the forest, with the moss and mushrooms filling your senses. You realize that your heartbeat has slowed down to a calm rhythm, and you have no sense of worry in your mind. Only the greenery, the scent of fresh growth, the layers and layers of roots and soil underneath your feet.
Introducing shinrin-yoku, a Japanese term meaning “forest bathing.” Garnering more interest in the last few decades, these short, leisurely visits to the forest have shown to be very beneficial for us humans. It’s a simple formula: you in the forest, intentionally spending time away from everything else (leaving behind any cameras, screens, etc.). All you need is your five senses, soaking up all that the forest has to offer. Let yourself wander aimlessly without expectations of getting to a certain spot. Allow bright flowers or feathers to catch your eye, dip your toes in a stream, lose track of time while watching the clouds shift and the creatures go about their business.
It should come as no surprise that this pastime infuses us with goodness, effectively lowering depression, fatigue, anxiety, adrenaline, anger and confusion. A 2015 study of nineteen middle-aged males forest bathing for just two hours revealed these results, as well as lowered rates of dopamine. This points to the relaxing effects of outside time, making space for effort, energy and enthusiasm.
Plants and trees emit a substance called phytoncides, and these can be thought of as aromatherapy of the forest. When we inhale these wood essential oils, the number of our NK cells (A.K.A. natural killer cells; which are white blood cells that support our immunities and lower risk of cancer, infections and inflammation) increases. In one study, participants that took a long walk through the forest two days in a row had 50% more NK cells, and higher activity in these cells by 23%…for a whole month!
Clearly, nature helps take our focus off of life’s stresses. We like to think of this refocus as refreshing, knowing that our perception of our problems is slightly improved, post-nature walk. Mother Nature really does know best, and the best part is that she’s always available! Whether it’s sunny or snowy, let her brighten your mood, balance your stress hormones, and boost endorphins and serotonin.
We hope this leaves you planning your next woodsy walk.
Until next thyme,
My Thyme Gardens