"You didn't come in to this world.
You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.
You are not a stranger here." Alan Watts
The violets that once filled the valleys of counties such as Devon, where I did my practitioner training, have long disappeared. The insects we once wiped from our windscreens are also a thing of the past. 1 in 7 species are at risk from extinction and our immune systems are becoming severely compromised as a result.
Yet our bodies belong to the land, whose richness and biodiversity is disappearing before our very eyes.
We live in our heads, yet we were designed to live in our bodies and be guided by our spirit. In the Western world, we are being encouraged to consume more in order to support an unsustainable economic model which is based on finite resources and ecological degradation. Our free will has been hijacked by the societies we live in and we find ourselves enslaved to a system which is fundamentally broken.
It takes a great deal of effort to exist in our material world. We do this by using our senses. Yet these are firmly out of balance and we've become more and more visually reliant. Forest Bathing, which is a translation of the Japanese term Shinrin-yoku, helps us isolate our senses and re-engage in ways we’ve forgotten. We re-learn to hear the sounds and experience the soft scents of the forest. This helps us to re-engage with the world and teaches us how to bring the body, mind and spirit connection back into alignment.
We all know how good being in nature can make us feel. We've known it for millennia. But it's not always easy to switch off. I see people going for walks at breakneck speed or talking on their phones. And whilst this is better than nothing, it’s a far cry from a truly nourishing experience. When we learn to slow down and tune in, we start to reconnect with the natural surroundings, and in turn, learn to reconnect with ourselves. Forest Bathing is a gentle, magical process which eases our stresses and worries, rejuvenating us and helping us to relax and think more clearly. Forest Bathing brings us back into a space of awe and wonder at nature and with practice, life itself.
History of Shinrin-Yoku
In Japanese, shinrin means forest and yoku means to bathe. So Shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest environment and taking in the forest through each of our senses. It originated in Japan in the 1980’s, in response to what became mass urbanisation, disconnection from the land, and the results of unhealthy lifestyles in large overcrowded cities. In seeking solutions to improve the health and happiness of the population, the Japanese government undertook scientific studies on how nature could help to heal the people.
Shinrin-yoku is therefore an evidence-based approach which, since the 1980's, has demonstrated through clinical testing and research, the physical and immunological benefits of contact with nature - specifically trees.
Benefits – the nitty gritty findings from scientific studies
Many trees give off organic compounds that support our “NK” (natural killer) cells. These form part of our immune system's way of fighting cancer cells. When we spend time in woodland and forests (2 hours or more) the benefits 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
The proven results experienced when you make this part of your regular routine include:
• Deeper and clearer intuition
• Increased flow of energy
• Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
• Increased flow of eros/life force energy
• Deepening of friendships
• Overall increase in sense of happiness
The Biophilia hypothesis
The idea that human beings have a biological need to be connected with nature has been termed biophilia, from the Greek meaning 'love of life and the living world'. It's because we evolved in nature that we have a biological need to connect with it. It's in our DNA and is therefore vital to our wellbeing.
To read more on Shinrin-yoku and its benefits check out the Journal page.