Want to decrease stress? Strengthen your immune system? Improve your overall health? Try the simple art of shinrin-yoku which means “forest bathing”. Popularized by Japanese physician and researcher Qing Li, forest bathing is walking through woods or any natural area like a park while engaging all your senses to absorb the surroundings–really noticing things like the shape and color of leaves, the kinds of birdsongs you hear, how filtered sunlight feels on your face, which scents waft by….
Such simple actions help you truly connect with the earth and that’s something most of us need to do more of. Recent studies indicate most Americans typically spend 93% of their time indoors which creates “nature deficit disorder” that increases depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a host of other health problems.
A mere 20 minutes of forest bathing is generally all it takes to start feeling the positive effects of this transformative art, and of course, the more time you can devote to it, the better you will tend to feel.
But why exactly? One reason is that woods produce higher concentrations of oxygen than urban zones. Mindful breathing of this enriched oxygen results in our brains producing more mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Forests also produce phytoncides, natural chemicals that strengthen our immune systems.
Feel free to mix up how you forest bathe—perhaps do a few simple outdoor yoga poses one day, treat yourself with a picnic the next, or just stretch out on the ground every once in a while. The possibilities are endless. And so are the benefits.