Forest bathing is a health and wellbeing craze taking the world by storm, but who invented it?
Forest bathing – originally known as shinrin-yoku – was ‘invented’ in 1982 by Akiyama Tomohide. He was the director of Japan’s Forestry Agency at the time and wanted to increase footfall in the grasslands and forests in-country.
Read on to learn more about forest bathing, how it originated, and how it benefits a person’s health.
Under the Trees
There are many holistic and spiritual health trends in the world today. The near-endless list includes healing crystals, meditation, herbal therapy, and aromatherapy.
However, in 1982, one particular individual decided to employ the strength of nature in a quest for wellbeing. Akiyama Tomohide coined the phrase ‘shinrin-yoku’, which literally translates to ‘forest bathing’.
He was the director of the Japan Forestry Agency at the time and wanted more people to flock to Japan’s nature hotspots. He worked to promote the health benefits of spending time outside and quite literally bathing yourself in the forest.
Although to forest bathe you don’t literally submerge yourself in a tub among a copse of trees. Instead, you envelop yourself in all that nature has to offer: sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes.
There have been many studies on the validity of forest bathing as a therapeutic pursuit. The general consensus is that shinrin-yoku can have numerous benefits to a person’s health and wellbeing.
Firstly, it can reduce stress, and increase levels of relaxation. It encourages clearer thinking and boosts a person’s mental state.
It’s not designed to cure diseases and isn’t any great leap in medicine, of course. It’s a free, tranquil, and simple way to better a person’s mind.
In an article in Nippon in 2018, shinrin-yoku expert Miyazaki Yoshifumi explained his journey with forest bathing. He’d been a self-proclaimed expert in the subject for over three decades and had much to share.
He explained that modern-day humans are in a constant state of stress. They’re disconnected from nature and too-connected to technology.
It was suggested that people with various risk factors could benefit greatly from forest bathing. This included those with high blood pressure, as the relaxation brought on by shinrin-yoku would calm them massively.
Miyazaki went on to explain exactly how forest bathing can be accomplished, and where. He said that shinrin-yoku could be carried out in parks, gardens – even balconies with essential oils and flowers.
Ultimately, it’s a versatile and dynamic therapy that anybody can get involved with.
Bathe Your Troubles Away
There are countless ways to accomplish forest bathing, but it’s traditionally done in groups. Typically, the group will be led by an expert in the therapy, who will guide them on their journey of wellbeing.
It’s easy to find these experts all over America. There are several organizations devoted entirely to the practice of shinrin-yoku.
Forest bathing is considerably cheaper than many other modern methods of therapy. It’s designed to be completely free, and anyone can do it.
However, if you’d like to give forest bathing a try under the watchful eye of a guide, it will cost you. It’s not a lot though – an hour-long session of shinrin-yoku could be as little as twenty dollars.
Ultimately, shinrin-yoku can be accomplished with ease. The goal is to completely submerge yourself in nature, whether that be a desert, a forest, or a mountain.
You need to totally immerse yourself, picking out all the individual sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings. There’s a special focus on touching things, such as the leaves of a tree, or feeling grass under a bare foot.
Although the world is densely populated and full of urban sprawls, a lot of nature still exists. All across the United States, there’s an abundance of countryside, mountains, and hills.
Regardless of which state you live in, you’re almost certain to find a tranquil location somewhere nearby.
It doesn’t have to be somewhere as well known as Yellowstone, or as challenging as the Appalachian Trail. It doesn’t need to be as iconic as Central Park, or as dangerous as the Everglades.
Your neighborhood park will suffice, or the few fields located just outside of town. You just need to head down there and connect with nature in your own time.
Take a few deep breaths, admire the sounds around you, and feel the stress just bleed out of your body.