Japanese forest bathing confers a number of health benefits that have scientifically been proven to be effective.
“Shinrin-yoku,” or forest bathing, was coined by Tomohide Akiyama and simply involves relaxing in the presence of trees.
The practice is categorized as a form of ecotherapy, and according to a number of different studies, can help improve the immune system, lower stress, and blood pressure, and improve overall well-being.
Forest Bathing was added to Japan’s national public health program in 1982 during a time when topiary, shearing trees, and shrubs into a variety of shapes, was the prominent method of therapy.
One study conducted by researchers in 2009 revealed that forest bathing increased the activity of human natural killer cells, white blood cells native to the immune system that play a major role in the prevention of cancer and infections.
This is thought to be due to the inhalation of phytoncides, antimicrobial compounds released by trees to defend against insects and microorganisms.
A different study also revealed a significant difference between those who spent just 30 minutes forest bathing and those who resided in the city.
“Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol [a stress hormone], lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”
— Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, Chiba University Researchers
Forest bathing also has a number of psychological benefits in addition to physical health benefits. Another study revealed that exposure to forest environments promoted emotional well-being and decreased levels of hostility.
“Forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress.”
— Department of Health Promotion and Human Behaviour, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University