SUSTAINABILITY | 13.07.2023
Forest bathing: the Japanese secret to wellness
Although many people have not yet heard of it, “forest bathing” is real and is gaining more and more weight in the formula for connecting people with nature.
“Forest bathing,” the literal translation of the Japanese term Shinrin-Yoku, is a Japanese practice that originated in the 1980s. It involves visiting a forest and enjoying it through different activities, stimulating the five senses to improve our mental and physical health.
It began as an alternative therapy for people with severe cases of depression and stress, and, according to several scientific studies, it has been shown to generate positive physical and psychological changes in the people who practice it. Thanks to its success, it has now spread to many countries around the world, integrating itself into nature parks and organizations working to improve health.
It is a type of progressive immersion where you not only hug trees or walk among them, but also connect with yourself through the rays of the sun, the sound of the birds, the leaves, the feel of the fresh breeze on your face, deep breathing, the silence, etc., immersing yourself intensely in the forest, absorbing its spirit, and connecting deeply with nature.
Japanese culture emphasizes the harmony that must exist between people and nature, interpreting this relationship based on the belief that we are all part of the universe and that we must live in balance. This is reflected in their daily lives, their understanding of other living beings, their appreciation of food, and their special devotion to the changing of the seasons, which they show through various celebrations such as Hanami (spring) or Momijigari (autumn).
And while Western culture may not have adapted this concept of admiration for nature yet, it is true that the practice of Shinrin-Yoku is reaching more and more places, offering newcomers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with nature.
Where can we experience Japanese forest bathing?
The first thing we need to enjoy this practice is a natural, open space away from pollution.
It usually takes between two and three hours to complete a route of about one kilometer. Although we recommend seeking advice or going accompanied by an expert, you can do it on your own. Here are some tips and activities.
Some of the most common activities include breathing exercises, meditating, reading, sitting by a tree, feeling the cool breeze, listening to the sounds of the forest, and simply contemplating nature. You should seek inner peace by using all your senses to admire the environment around you. To make this technique effective, follow these basic steps: rest, breathe deeply, let go of racing thoughts, contemplate nature, set a gentle pace, pay attention to your surroundings, and create a habit of this practice.
Benefits of forest bathing
The benefits of “Japanese forest bathing” are wide-ranging and not only help to improve nature conservation and create a valuable relationship between it and people, but also to improve many aspects of our health.
- Improves mental health
Mental health is the order of the day, and we are gradually giving it the importance it deserves. This practice improves mental health by reducing stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as improving attention span.
- Strengthens the immune system
It helps strengthen our immune system, increasing the body’s capacity for self-defense and recovery. It does this from the monoterpenes emitted by the trees, which help to produce natural killer cells.
- Improves cardiovascular health
It reduces cardiovascular pressure and helps to lower the heart rate, thanks to the act of walking quietly and taking in smells and sounds we receive from the natural environment.
- Produces a sense of happiness and improves mood
We live very much immersed in enclosed spaces and screens all day long. Experiencing these activities in a natural and open environment leads us to feel more tranquility, serenity, and inner peace while reducing mental and physical fatigue.
At MAPFRE, we care about what matters to you, which is why we keep you up to date with the best wellness tips for your mental and physical health.