In Japan, Shinrin-yoku aka “Forest Bathing” Is a Form of Medicine

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Shinrin-yoku. No, it’s not a new hobby but a Japanese word which means “forest bathing”. Japan is a country known for its hard-work employers, but also for its healthy lifestyle (they even have a Health and Sports Day!) Well, shinrinyoku is the practice of walking through a forest and breathing the wood essential oils, which have a relaxing effect on the body.

In 1982, the Japanese government introduced the concept of shinrin yoku, or“forest bathing,” urging citizens to make use of the country’s 3,000 wooded miles for therapy.  It made the case that citizens should make use of the 3,000 miles of forest for therapeutic release. “Tomohide Akiyama, then chief of the forestry ministry, understood intuitively that the woods do people good, while distance from nature makes us sick.”

While Japan was championing forest bathing, an American scientist was formulating a thesis that explains why nature moves all people, wherever they are from. Biologist Edward O. Wilson, people have a biological urge to commune with the primordial mother, Earth, which nurtures us. He believed that humans have evolved to love all forms of life and the processes that reflect our existence, which are everywhere visible in nature. Wilson called that attachment biophilia, from the Greek bios, meaning life, and philos, meaning loving.

Our urge to merge with nature is impossible to measure biologically, Wilson said. Yet he believed that “our existence depends on this propensity, our spirit is woven from it, hopes rise on its currents.” – source QZ

Yes, hiking is similar to the “shinrin-yoku” trips, as it involves a walking outdoors and obtaining the best from the environment. And has also a lot of advantages.

Physical exercise comes  first of the list, especially if we spend a lot of time sitting for too long. In effect, a lot of discomforts are linked to a sedentary lifestyle: joint pain, strained neck. heart problems… We are getting to used to being in case, subways, buses and our body does not move like before. Walking at a moderate pace involves health benefits as it helps us to be in shape, burn calories and get rid of those back pains! It also lower stress and anxiety, and stimulates the production of dopamine, the hormone of happiness 🙂

Contact with the Nature is obviously another great advantage – from time to time our body (and our mind!) needs a break from the rush and pollution of the big cities, the stress of mails and constant notifications; when that time comes go and find the nearest park/garden/forest and take a big deep breath of fresh air and refill your lungs. Hiking allows you to return to the nature and relax in a peaceful environment with a steady rhythm.

We should all take note from Japan and practice forest bathing for our own good, even if once in a while just to disconnect, and find ourselves once again in nature – alone with nothing but the trees and our thoughts.

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