Shinrin yoku or about the importance of going to nature
Shinrin Yoku is Japanese for nature therapy. More precisely it is forest bathing.
This weekend I bought a book from Dr.Qing Li, who is a father of Shinrin Yoku. It was not an intentional purchase, but once I dived into that I could not stop.
Especially, when the book was not demanding and it was clear I could finish it in one weekend.
The font was big and they actually left a lot of blank space there.
And the book was packed with absolutely gorgeous pictures, just like this:
Still, I was a bit skeptical, because I was asking myself:
What the heck do I need a book about being in a forest? It’s like my second nature. I love the forest! I know how to enjoy that place, and I know how to exploit it.
But, then I thought how dumb is the mind’s position of “I know it all” and I do not need a book, especially when the title is something that I naturally like.
So, I gave it a try with a good mind that I’ll learn something new…
Shinrin yoku – from Perception to the science
It’s ideal when our life is lead by intuition. Because honestly, we do not have many other decision methods how to decide upon.
However, we are also rational creatures and it’s equally important to know WHY we are acting the way we are.
Forest is an immense source. As we all know it produces oxygen that we breathe. They clean the water, stop the erosion of the fields, and give us raw materials.
Apart from all that they heal us preventively and provide us medicine when we are really sick.
While 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less than 1% of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists. (savetheamazon.org)
The preventative healing power of forests is enormous.
Japanese started a research in the 80s led by Dr. Qing Li called Shinrin Yoku.
The goal of Shinrin Yoku was to confirm the hypothesis that forest bathing promotes:
- immune system
- increases overall energy
- reduces anxiety, depression, and anger
- provides stress relief
Dr.Qing Li and his team measured the heart frequency and blood pressure of forest bathers. Both were decreased while forest bathing. As we know, heart frequency and blood pressure are both increased while we are under stress. It’s our natural answer to being “chased by a lion”, what in a modern world is not delivering on your tasks at work and elsewhere.
Another measurement they have conducted was that they measured cortisol levels of the study group.
Cortisol is a hormone that is being raised when we got stuck in traffic jams or getting through a horde of work emails. It’s the hormone that helps us to prepare for all the hardships that we might face.
However, in the contemporary world, it’s just a little too much and our cortisol levels remain high.
Forest bathing can decrease the levels of cortisol and adrenaline significantly.
Better sleep and mood improvement
To get in a shape, you need to eat well, take care of your mental health and practice. All of this you can find in our great body book.
To a perfect body and mental shape belongs also that you are well rested and sleep properly. It’s becoming a crucial problem in modern urban society that we can’t sleep properly, because we are bombarded by the blue artificial light coming from electronic devices.
Dr. Ling’s team measured that the average sleep duration before forest bathing was 383 minutes. After forest bathing, walking in the forest for more than 2 hours, the average night sleep duration was increased to 452 minutes.
I observed it myself that I sleep much better when sleeping at the cabin.
Shinrin yoku has concluded :
- The average time of sleep after two hours of walk in the forest increased by 15% – 54 minutes
- After two hours of walking in the forest, the study group participants were much less anxious
- The quality of sleep was improved
- Afternoon walks were shown to be more effective than morning walks.
Another method conducted in the study group was the POMS test.
The POMS test (Profil of Mood States) is not much more than a survey that contains a list of 65 emotions that participants evaluate on a 6-degree scale (the higher the stronger feeling). So, it looks like this:
Anxiety 1 – 6 : 2
Fearfulness 1 – 6: 2
Blame 1 – 6 : 2
Vitality 1 – 6 : 5
Exhaustion 1 – 6 : 3
There are differences between human individuals and their perceptions of course. However, on a global scale, on average the forest bathing has a positive impact on vitality and endurance.
Shinrin Yoku for enhancing the immune system
We may live in times of human peace, but on a micro level, there’s an eternal nature’s war of resources. Trees and plants had to build up their protection against microbes and different pathogens and we can benefit from this system of protection. If you think of it 25% percent of our medicines come from the forest and they are more to be discovered. Especially, in the times where our antibiotics are becoming deprecated, we need to look more into nature’s way of healing. Plants adapt continuously to different pathogen mutations, unlike antibiotics.
The study group was observed on the activity of NK ( natural killers) cells. After 3 nights of forest bathing, the results from the study group were intriguing:
- They reported the increase of activity of NK by 52,6%
- The number of NK cells went from 440 to 661 – 50% increase
- The presence of anti-cancer protein (granulysin) went up by 48%
The effects of such forest bathing vacations are long-lasting and can prevail up to 30 days.
The magic power of trees
Everybody who has hugged the tree knows that they have a special power. The green color of the forest soothes your mind, the blue color of the sky sets it with new horizons and the shiny stars make you dream again.
But, away from the world of spirituality, there’s a tangible point where science can lead us in this topic.
The power of trees is hidden in chemical substances called Phytoncides.
These are chemical organic compounds released by plants, in general, that fight parasites. Thanks to shinrin yoku we are more curious about this interesting topic of phytoncides.
Phytoncides are natural oils in plants, that are part of their immune system. The air in the forest is full of it. Trees are releasing phytoncides to fight bacteria, insects or fungi.
If you walk in the forest that smells as it should be, you know that it’s full of phytoncides.
The main component of phytoncides is terpene. Terpenes are compounds that smell pretty like nature itself.
Before reading Dr. Qing Li’s book I had no clue what phytoncides are. Now, I know that the whole forest communicates through organic substances that I can take advantage of whenever I am in a forest. Just by knowing the name of the substance, it has changed a lot for me.
How to practice shinrin yoku
I think the most important thing to enjoy anything fully is to accept your present moment. It’s little harder when you dislike your present moment since it does not fit your values at a time.
By values, at the time I simply mean that you could imagine yourself doing something else more likely. It’s simplification since the essence here goes much deeper, but let’s live with that.
In the forest, we should deeply open our hearts and the five senses we got.
The scenery is 99% times beautiful, so it’s pleasant and calming for eyes to see beautiful green forests. You should embrace with your full heart.
Listen the sounds of the birds and the calming breeze passing through the leaves.
Smell the beautiful odor of the forest whenever you can. It’s phytoncides, remember?
Breathe deeply, the air just does not compare to one we have in cities, does it?
Touch the trees, hug it, whisper to it, communicate with it. Touch the stones, sit on forest stub, put your shoes off. Did you know it feels wonderful to walk barefoot on the fallen leaves in the forest?
Hey, isn’t this a lovely creek? What about walking in its refreshing, rejuvenating, tranquilizing, cool water? Take your shoes off! And if it’s possible and it’s deep enough, take a bath in the completely. Feeling cold? Well, I can just recommend a little bit of cold therapy!
Taste the forest if you are completely sure that gifts that it provides are 100% edible!
But, first of all, adjust your mind to the conditions the forest provides. Yeah, it’s full of ticks, anywhere in the world! They’ll probably get you if you don’t use repellent.
And yes, mosquitos will get you, and you will cross a lot of spider webs and like tons of other insects is going to visit you and annoy you. That’s their territory remember, it belongs to it.
Reading shinrin yoku is one thing, being in a forest is another. Just, that we don’t avoid this and be aware that this belongs here.
So, just that you are prepared…
Shinrin yoku inspiration
bringing a little bit of forest at home and workplace
Before reading this book I’ve never thought about this. Not, like I am only a manly man, but I was completely ignorant of the plants in my workplaces and back at home. After reading this book and overall, I do not know what it was (I spent a lot of time down in the forest lately), I suddenly had this epiphany that, man we do not have any plants in our apartment!
I must confess that I’ve been a bad guy and every plant I was a beneficiary of ended disastrously. Only succulents had a chance to survive by me because they can last without a water for months. But, I want to change this!
Anyway, plants at home are very important since they raise the amount of oxygen. Yes, you might say that plants are eating out carbon dioxide in the day and exhaling oxygen, but they do the opposite at night. True, but not for every plant. For instance, orchids are producing oxygen even at night, so they are ideal for your bedroom.
Plants are filtering the air, they act as sponges. Some of the best air-filtering plants are:
Ivy – berry
I was always a little bit skeptic and did not care about these things. I could have stayed in dark grey office since I am able to escape into the forest on the Weekend. And that’s generally a good principle, but why not to take a little bit of forest into your own office for more appeasement and productivity?
Smells are incredibly important. Ever wonder, why at the entrance of the boutique shop they always throw some odor at you? Of course, it’s because they want you to feel more relaxed, more akin to making a purchase.
I wonder if you can use candles at your workplace. But, I am sure you can use diffusers and diffusers with sticks since they are incredibly popular at the offices these days.
I am also bringing branches of needle-like trees back home all the time. I drive my wife nuts with that, but she must admit that it smells nice. Sometimes, I just put the fir – needles inside the jar and pour some Vodka on it (have it quite often back home haha).
Shinrin Yoku benefits
So, in conclusion, Shinrin yoku brings you:
- Relax and ease, anxiety and stress relieve
- Enhanced immune system
- New vitality coming from the energy of the forest
- Enhanced sleep
- More consciousness, by being present