Before you think that this is some sort of a nudist movement, let me stop you right there. “Shinrin-Yoku” or “Forest Bathing” (it literally translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere”) is a term coined by the Japanese in the 80s to promote a healthy lifestyle. And no you do not need to get naked or require a bathing suit for this, it’s basically reconnecting with nature in the simplest way possible.
It’s not a bath nor is it a hike/trek, you are suppose to walk slowly, with deliberate attempts to focus on the surrounding nature around you with no particular destination in mind. So you just aimlessly wander in the forest, being at one with nature.
Photo courtesy of blog.naturespath
why: Scientific Proof of Health Benefits
Before you call the cops or psychologists on me, this is a proven therapy to reduce stress levels. There are numerous Japanese reports that backs the notion that forest bathing boosts immune systems, reduces stress hormones, enhances mental wellness, bolsters brain health. One report even claims it lowers blood glucose levels among diabetes sufferers. Nature appreciation has long been a national pastime in Japan so it’s no surprise that this became a popular form of therapy. Couple that with scientific backings of health improvements and you get about 2.5 – 5 million visitors to the forests each year to engage in this.
Photo courtesy of telegraph.uk
how do the japanese do it?
Japan has dedicated “forest therapy” trails that are recognised by the Forest Agency of Japan due to their therapeutic qualities. There are also specific clubs dedicated to forest bathing and all guides have to be certified before bringing you on this zen journey. It requires more than just a good sense of direction, guides have to understand the purpose of being outside and amongst nature.
According to forest therapy experts, it is recommended to take at least 2 hours to engage in this activity to fully appreciate the nature around you. “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. ” – Henry David Thoreau.
what about AN URBAN CITY like singapore?
While forest bathing hasn’t caught on in Singapore, we do have plenty of nature trails and parks. I mean we are called a clean and green city for a reason right? Simply take a two-hour walk while savoring the sights, sounds and smells of nature without rushing. Breathe in the fresh air, sit occasionally, and touch the tree bark, smell the plants and flowers you pass by and you’re on your way to a healthier body. Oh and leave that FitBit at home. You’re suppose to clear your mind of all forms of distractions.
The Japanese have unplugged way before there were smartphones to get unplugged from, always one step ahead of us. Who knows, perhaps this would be as much of a cultural norm as yoga a decade later?