Forest therapy – booster for your health and well-being
How forest walks improve health and reduce stress
Forest therapy is becoming a global trend. If the weather and circumstances don’t allow for a dip in the sea or at least a dip in the pool, you can always take a “forest bath”. With Shinrin-yoku philosophy, you can use forest therapy to relieve stress and boost your immune system.
Shinrin-yoku – the way to harmony
The forest, the park or even a small garden can not only help to harmonize thoughts and feelings, but also your physical condition to fix. In Japan, the shinrin-yoku philosophy, which literally means “forest bathing” (shinrin means forest and yoku means bath), has been practiced for forty years. The essence of these forest walks is the joy of nature and the search for harmony with it. People like to be in nature, but mostly they combine it with a picnic by the fire, or a brisk walk because there is little time. In Japan and South Korea, on the other hand, forest therapy is part of special prevention programs and brings very tangible results.
The Art of Forest Bathing
“Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world,” says Dr. Qin Li in his book : The Japanese Art of “Forest Bathing”. – a veritable encyclopedia of forest therapy. Qing Li is an associate professor at the Japanese Medical School in Tokyo and a world-renowned specialist in the field of forest therapy. The basic rule: In order to achieve oneness with nature, you have to turn on all your five senses! Seeing – hearing – smelling – touching – tasting. Start by finding a secluded but safe spot in the forest (parks, squares) where you feel comfortable. Turn off your devices or put them to sleep. And no goals: to run as many kilometers or to hug a tree pillar! Only that which brings peace and joy – the sensations of the moment. Only what is pleasing to the eye – a flowery meadow or the crown of a tree stretching towards the sky. Only what pleases the ear – birdsong or the rustling of the leaves. Feel the smell of a pine cone or damp moss. Feel the gnarled texture of an old oak tree trunk with your palms. Try chewing on a blade of grass or spot a nice berry. And out of season you can just “drink” the fresh, clean air…
Fixing your sensations while walking
There are different types of conscious walking. If you want to follow the method closely, then you should immerse yourself in meditation, fixate your sensations during the walk, direct your attention to different parts of your body, and track your feelings. This is the so-called basic version of shinri-yoku, which is directed inwards. And that, of course, requires more concentration, but it also probably brings more positive results. Or you can just contemplate and shift from your inner world into this beautiful, unfathomable world of nature. It is the more unpretentious variant of the unit. It’s spontaneous. You don’t know what’s going to grab your attention the next minute – the trill of an unfamiliar bird or the leisurely pace of a caterpillar on a leaf. You don’t have to walk all the time, but forest therapists recommend at least four hours of health walks a day. You can stop and eventually listen to what your body wants. Maybe they’ve had enough of beauty and ozone and want to go home.
Forest Therapy with an Audio Guide
In 2012, inspired by Shinrin-yoku, psychologist Amos Clifford founded the Forest Therapy Association. Forest therapy leaders from all over the world are trained in the association. – With special exercises we slow down and direct our attention to the different senses and our sensations one after the other. It releases psycho-emotional tensions, relaxes us and fills us with energy for city life,” comments Catherine Pletner. A hike with an audio guide takes about an hour and a half. If you master the technique, you can perfect the philosophy of shinri-yoku yourself.