“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” – Lao Tzu
I’ve been feeling slightly overwhelmed, and one of the reasons for this is that I haven’t been spending as much time in nature, as I usually would, in recent weeks.
I love the term “shinrin-yoku” (森林浴) in Japanese which translates as “forest bathing”, which a term popularised in the 1980s to describe the healing benefits of mindfully visiting a forest, walking slowly, breathing and opening the senses. This is now one of the cornerstones of preventative healthcare and healing. Whilst this type of healing has deep roots in many cultures throughout history, what’s interesting is the burgeoning and robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of shinrin-yoku to back up the intuitive benefits of spending time immersed in nature.
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks” – John Muir
One example is a study released by the University of Kyoto and published in Public Health, entitled, ‘Psychological effects of forest environments on healthy adults: Shinrin-yoku (forest-air bathing, walking) as a possible method of stress reduction‘ which describes a link between walking in forests and reducing chronic stress.
According to Shinrin-yoku.org, the scientifically-proven benefits of forest bathing 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
This is in addition to anecdotal improvements in intuition; energy flow, sense of connection, communication and happiness.
“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better” – Albert Einstein
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the concept of “nature deprivation,” a lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens, which has been associated with depression and isolation. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, concluded “there is an independent, deleterious relationship” between “screen-based recreational sitting time” and not only cardiovascular disease “events” but “all-cause mortality.” However, for many of us, “screen-based occupational sitting time” is part of our daily reality, so it’s more a question of finding creative ways to weave nature a deeper connection to nature into our daily lives.
“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles” – Mary Davis
Featured image “Forest Walk” by CSeeby from Flickr.com. Used under Creative Commons license.