Here at James Waste we love coming across innovative ideas that are encouraging people to partake in the beauty of nature and experience its loveliness. We believe that the more time people spend in nature, the more they will want to respect, preserve and protect it. We were so excited to discover Japan’s health craze of forest bathing. Read on to find out more!
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing is all about just being in the presence of trees and experiencing the health benefits associated with this practice. Forest bathing is a type of therapy which was developed in Japan during the 1980s. It became a part of Japan’s national health programme in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase Sinrin-Yoku (which means forest bathing) and promoted trees as therapy.
The appreciation of nature’s beauty has long been revered in Japan and the respect of the environment is evident in the culture. With vast expanses mountains and the beauty of Japan’s blossom trees, it is perhaps little surprise that forests hold such a special place in the national psyche. The goal of forest bathing is to encourage nature appreciation and healthier lifestyles for the Japanese who often live over-worked and over-stressed lifestyles.
What Does Forest Bathing Involve?
So, how do you bathe in a forest? Well, it doesn’t involve baths or water. It simply involves going into the woods, breathing deeply and being at peace. The smells we experience when visiting forests are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds which are derived from trees and promote relaxation, stress relief and rest. So, not only does forest bathing encourage rest and relaxation, it also promotes a healthier lifestyle.
Science Behind the System
Forest bathing isn’t just beneficial for the appreciation of nature and the preservation of Japan’s forests, it also has great psychological and physiological benefits. The scientific benefits behind forest bathing have been researched thoroughly by hundreds of Japanese officials who have spent around $4 million studying the health benefits and have discovered that they include so far; lowered blood pressure, blood glucose levels and stress hormones.
Quin Li, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, took it upon himself to measure the activity of human natural killer cells in the immune system before and after exposure to a forest. The natural killer cells in our bodies provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and tumour formation. It is believed this is due to the various essential oils which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects.
According to numerous Japanese studies, forest bathing boosts the immune system, enhances mental wellness, reduces stress and increases brain health. Forest environments have also been found to be advantageous in improving acute emotions, especially those among people who are chronically stressed.
Are All Forests Suitable for Forest Bathing?
Japan now has 62 officially recognised forests but how was this decided upon? To qualify as an appropriate location for forest therapy, a forest must have a minimum of two ‘forest therapy roads’ that have been scientifically proven to have increased health benefits, physiologically and psychologically, on visitors.
They must also satisfy in the ability to gratify the senses through forestry sounds, the feel of soft moss and a strong forest aroma. In addition to scientific studies, a suitable forest bathing location must also demonstrate good accessibility and sustainable management. This means visitors should be able to arrive, experience the area with a trained forest therapy guide and have any physical and mental changes to their bodies tracked to monitor their improvement. So, a lot more goes in to choosing an appropriate forest bathing location than simply choosing a stunning location.
What Happens on a Forest Walk?
When experiencing forest bathing, people will partake in a forest therapy walk. Forest guides will lead gentle walks that usually last several hours. They help facilitate sensory appreciation of the forest, allowing visitors to experience it at a deeper level. Forest guides are highly trained in therapeutic facilitation and know how to slow people down, allowing the forest to do its therapeutic work.
Forest bathing is becoming widely recognised throughout Japan and the backing of scientific evidence in the improvement of health is encouraging people to give it a try. Forest bathing is also revolutionising Japan’s approach to preventative health and stress management. Not only are more people in Japan trying to visit therapy bases, it is also educating them on protecting the environment. Even Japanese companies are coming to understand the benefits and are sending their employees on forest therapy weekends to help alleviate any work-related stress.
In Japan, forest bathing has become widely accepted and the official stamp of approval from health organisations has only boosted its popularity. Forest Therapy can now be prescribed as a necessary treatment by a physician and visits to a forest therapy base can, therefore, be claimed on health insurance – encouraging an influx of people to take part.
Here at James Waste, we know how much enjoyment you can get from simply appreciating the beauty of nature. When we stumbled across forest bathing, we couldn’t help but be intrigued. The whole idea promotes environmental appreciation and encourages us all to help look after our forests and landscapes.
If you are interested in forest bathing, it’s not only available in Japan. There are numerous forest bathing experiences making their way to the UK. Alternatively, you could simply rock up at a nearby forest and spend the afternoon wandering around in the peace and quiet, revelling in nature and breathing in all the goodness it offers.
I hope you have found this article an interesting read. I certainly found it a fascinating subject to write about! If you would like to know what you could be doing to help the environment, give us a call today. Our team at James Waste are always happy to share their advice with others.