What is Shinrinyoku (Forest Bathing)? Health Benefits Explained

what is shinrinyoku

Shinrinyoku is simply forest bathing.

But you may know of it as one those unique and beautiful Japanese words.

If you want to know the precise Japanese meaning…

Shinrinyoku (森林浴) is made up of three kanji characters 森(shin) 林(rin) 浴(yoku), which combine to form the meaning “forest bathing.”

森林(shinrin) means “forest” or “woodland” and 浴(yoku) means “bath” or “soak.”

And forest bathing is pretty much going into nature and enjoying the forest, much like soaking in a bath.

This activity involves surrounding and bathing in the forest’s sounds, smells, and colors for a therapeutic effect.

Japanese people believe shinrinyoku has numerous mental and physical health benefits. It can be a rejuvenating experience, like soaking in a bath.

Where does Shinrinyoku Come From?

Obviously, it’s a Japanese word so the answer is simple.

But, to give you more detail:

The concept of shinrinyoku, or forest bathing, has actually been around for a long time in Japan.

In Japanese culture, especially with Shinto and Buddhist beliefs, nature is central.

Most shrines and temples are in places with beautiful gardens and forests.

Japanese landscaping is also unique because it preserves the natural shapes and forms of the plants and trees.

So, the appreciation of nature has always been part of Japanese culture.

But, it wasn’t until 1982 that the term shinrinyoku became an official concept in Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

As Japan grew more modern, the government wanted to encourage people to get out into nature and enjoy the therapeutic effects.

The government also wanted Japanese people to care more about their surroundings and forests to protect them.

Since then, the popularity of shinrinyoku has grown because of Japan’s geography and abundance of forests and urban parks.

In Tokyo alone, there are 82 urban parks where people can relax and enjoy nature.

There are also many hiking trails and mountains since 80% of the land in Japan is mountainous. Japan’s unique geography, forests, and culture have all contributed to the popularity of shinrinyoku.

The Secret to Why Forest Bathing Works

You may be thinking…

“How do trees impact us people?”

“How does this even work?”

Based on the book, The Heartbeat of Trees (click here to learn more about it out on Amazon), by Peter Wohlleben…

The Heartbeat of Trees Book by Peter Wohlleben
Click here to check it on Amazon

Forest Bathing, and generally being amongst trees, is good for you because trees are constantly putting out chemicals into the air.

Whether for communication or defense. And you’re walking through said chemicals… which are actually good for you.

The Heartbeat of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

 

Another book you can check out is by Dr. Qing Li…

Dr. Li is mentioned in Peter Wohlleben’s The Heartbeat of Trees.

The Heartbeat of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

 

Now that you know how shinrinyoku works, let’s look at the benefits.

7 Benefits of Forest Bathing

1. Health Impacts

Spending time inside a forest can have immune-boosting properties.

When trees surround you, the air contains phytoncides, organic compounds released by trees. These compounds have an antimicrobial property that can boost your immune system.

In addition, being inside of a forest means that you’re likely getting some light physical exercise. Shinrinyoku is also a great way to reduce your risk of illnesses and improve cardiovascular health and other potential health problems.

Some benefits mentioned in The Heartbeat of Trees:

  • reduction of inflammation
  • lowering of blood pressure
  • lung capacity
  • elasticity of arteries
  • cancer
  • immune system

See below…

Here are some additional studies that looked into forest bathing:

  1. Study: “Medical empirical research on forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku): a systematic review”
    1.  Takeaway: Forest bathing reduces stress and improves mental well-being. 
    2. https://environhealthprevmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12199-020-00923-8
  2. Study: “Forest Bathing Increases Adolescents’ Mental Well-Being: A Mixed-Methods Study”
    1.  Takeaway: Forest bathing increases mental well-being in adolescents, reducing anxiety and depression. 
    2. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/21/1/8
  3. Study: “The Effects of Dynamic and Static Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on Physiological and Psychological Health in Males and Females”
    1.  Takeaway: Both dynamic and static forest bathing improve mood, reduce blood pressure, and enhance heart rate variability. 
    2. https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/14/8/1592
  4. Study: “Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function”
    1.  Takeaway: Forest bathing trips increase natural killer cell activity and enhance immune function. 
    2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953619303861
  5. Study: “The impact of nature exposure on mental health: A systematic review”
    1.  Takeaway: Exposure to nature is linked to decreased anxiety, reduced depressive symptoms, and improved overall mood. 
    2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953619303861
  6. Study: “Unlocking Nature’s Healing: Forest Bathing Benefits Revealed”
    1.  Takeaway: Forest bathing boosts immune system activity and aids in the expression of anti-cancer proteins, while also improving mental well-being. 
    2. https://longevity.stanford.edu/unlocking-natures-healing-forest-bathing-benefits-revealed

2. Mental Clarity

It’s so easy to be distracted by the technology surrounding us that we lose our mental clarity. Practicing shinrinyoku can allow you to escape all your daily pressures and distractions. Going into the forest can reduce your cortisol levels or stress hormones, making you more relaxed and think clearly. Forest bathing can be an excellent practice if you’re trying to figure out essential life decisions or coming up with new ideas!

3. Stress Reduction

Along with mental clarity, forest bathing can significantly impact stress levels.

With shinrinyoku, it is essential to shift your focus to the surrounding nature’s sounds, smells, and beauty. This activity can help you stop thinking about stressful thoughts and reduce stress. Facing your stress from a distance can provide a much-needed outside perspective. Also, removing yourself from directly dealing with all the causes of your stress can be one of the best benefits of shinrinyoku.

4. Emotional healing

Something about being in nature can also provide healing to the mind.

Shinrinyoku can help with emotional healing by allowing you to find a quiet and peaceful place to gather your thoughts. Seeing profound beauty in nature can also become a grounding experience. Walking in the forest could help you release your emotions and find peace if you’re going through a hard time.

5. Mindfulness and presence

Mindfulness and presence are also a big part of shinrinyoku. To bathe in the forest, you must focus on the present sounds, colors, and smells. This focus is difficult to achieve outside of nature because of the constant distractions and societal pressures. G

etting out into the forest makes stepping away from these potential distractions easier. What is unique about forests is that they are constantly changing with the winds, the sun, and the birds, and there can be many things to notice and observe.

6. Increase Creativity

Painters, writers, and artists have all found inspiration through natural beauty and have gone to retreats in the forests to find new ideas and focus on their creative work.

Even if you’re not an artist, shinrinyoku can help increase your creativity by allowing your mind to be more open and transparent. Since it can improve your mental clarity, it also can provide more space for new ideas to come inside.

Shinrinyoku can be the perfect thing to try out if you’re having some creative blocks! There are so many senses that you can activate in the forest that may lead to creative inspiration.

7. Improve Physical Health

Shinrinyoku can also significantly improve physical health.

To bathe in the forest, you must also participate in light exercise to appreciate it. It involves walking around to enjoy nature and observe the surroundings. Even if you don’t plan to exercise, simply going into a forest can be a big motivator for moving around.

Back to You:

Now, you know a bit about the concept of shinrinyoku or forest bathing.

If you want to learn more, feel free to check out these books:

The first book is more so about trees and includes mentions of shinrinyoku. The second is all about shinrinyoku.

– Team IJ

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