Shinrin-Yoku, a Japanese term translated to “Forest Bathing”, is a mindful way of spending time in the woods that allows you to reconnect with nature, providing significant health benefits in return. Generations ago, being in nature was a natural consequence of existence, but with the increasingly institutionalization of older adults, a hyperactive mind, and a generation addicted to electronic screens, we have drifted away from the woods. When we “forest bath” we are looking for a way to mobilize the connection and interdependence of all living things and allow the healing power of nature to happen.
A plethora of medical studies (see Shinrin-Yoku web site/) describes the significant health advantages Shinrin-Yoku can yield :
- Decreased Blood Pressure
- Decreased Blood Cortisol Levels (stress hormone)
- Improved Breathing
- Increased Vigor
- Decreased Stress
- Improved Concentration
But one of the biggest benefits may come from breathing in chemicals called phytoncides, emitted by trees and plants. Women who logged two to four hours in a forest on two consecutive days saw a nearly 40 percent surge in the activity of natural killer white blood cells (NK cells), thereby improving immunity to disease. “Phytoncide exposure reduces stress hormones, indirectly increasing the immune system’s ability to kill tumor cells,” says Tokyo-based researcher Qing Li, MD, PhD, who has studied Shinrin-Yoku.
Preparing for a Shinrin-Yoku stroll
Come prepared to silently, deliberately engage with nature using all five senses; listening to the birds chatter, feeling the movement of the wind on your cheeks, breathing in the fresh air, experiencing the varying textures of nature to your touch, and taking in all visual splendor the woods has to offer. The practice of Shinrin Yoku is about slowing down, connecting and immersing our senses in the beauty of nature allowing healing to occur naturally. Upon reaching the woods, you will be asked to shut off your cell phone and remain silent through out the experience.
Bobbi Kolonay RN MS is a Certified Holistic Nurse, Nature Lover, and Owner of Holistic Aging – Options For Elder Care: A Holistic Care Management Practice in Pittsburgh PA that helps families provide the opportunity for aging relative to AGE WELL. Shinrin-Yoku walks are offered by Holistic Aging to Seniors (and their caregivers) on a weekly basis guided by Bobbi – check our web site Holistic Aging Programs for dates and fees.