Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, is a practice that originated in Japan in the 1980s as a way to promote health and well-being. The concept is simple: spend time in nature, specifically in a forested area, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest. The practice has been shown to have a variety of health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving mood, and boosting the immune system.
One of the key benefits of forest bathing is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the "relaxation response". In a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, participants who took a three-day, two-night forest bathing trip had significantly lower cortisol levels and lower heart rate variability compared to a control group who took a trip to a city.
Forest bathing has also been shown to improve mood and cognitive function. In a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, participants who took a forest walk had lower scores on a depression scale and higher scores on a vigor scale compared to a control group who walked in an urban area. In addition, a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that a two-hour forest walk improved attention and working memory compared to a walk in an urban area.
Another benefit of forest bathing is its ability to boost the immune system. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can increase the activity of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in fighting cancer and infections. In a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, participants who took a two-hour forest walk had significantly higher levels of natural killer cells compared to a control group who walked in an urban area.
While the specific mechanisms behind the health benefits of forest bathing are not yet fully understood, it is believed that the natural environment of the forest – including the trees, plants, and other organisms – emits compounds called phytoncides, which have a positive impact on human physiology.
Forest bathing is therefore a simple yet powerful practice that can promote health and well-being. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and boost the immune system. At Green Pathway, we aim to help people adopt the good habits of making time for nature on a regular basis, even if it's just a short walk. In turn, we believe we can help people improve their physical and mental well-being.