by Andreas Hunkeler
The term forest bathing is derived from Japanese Shinrin-yoku. Translated a little more precisely means Shinrin-yoku: Breathe in the forest atmosphere or immerse yourself in the forest atmosphere. Forest bathing accordingly means: absorbing the forest atmosphere with all your senses, consciously lingering in the forest in order to recover physically and mentally and to strengthen your own health. There are different methods and approaches for forest bathing: From simple walks to certain exercises, for example with Qi Gong, meditation or yoga.
The oldest known source comes from China and is 2.500 years old. Under the term Senlinyu physical exercises in the forest aimed at absorbing the forest's energy. The Japanese term Shinrin-yoku was introduced in 1982 by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries. In 2004 this ministry established its own research center to study the therapeutic effect of forests. Meanwhile is Shinrin-yoku world-famous and especially in Japan an integral part of the health care system.
Here in Europe, the term forest bathing was especially developed by a certain, large-scale Japanese Studie known from 2008.
The results of this study show that forest bathing has the following measurable effects on human physiology: a lower concentration of cortisol, a low pulse, lower blood pressure, more parasympathetic activation and at the same time lower sympathetic activation of the nervous system. On a psychological level, the study was able to show that forest bathing has a positive effect on tension, depression, anger, tiredness and confusion.
Forest bathing in urban regions
The good news for city dwellers: Forest bathing is not only possible in vast, remote forests, in untouched nature. Forest bathing also works in cities, provided there are parks, green corridors or wooded areas on the outskirts. The Japanese study cited above also indicates that not only forests can achieve this health-promoting effect, but also other natural environments such as watercourses or grasslands.
Another Studie argues that it is health-promoting, especially for urban people, to consciously move into a different environment for a while that is less dominated by emissions, noise and technological consumption. The health-promoting effect of trees and greenery can help urban people in particular to escape the stress of modern everyday life for a while and to consciously adapt to nature.
Forest bathing in context
The term forest bathing is closely related to the concept Biophilia. In his book The Biophilia Effect: healing from the forest the biologist Clemens Arvay refers to the studies listed above.
There is now an international society for the term Shinrin-yoku: International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine