Shinrin–yoku (森林浴), which literally means forest bathing, originated in Japan in the early 1980s and may be regarded as a form of nature therapy. Now, to my understanding, this literally is a form of therapy. It’s not about hiking or wandering in the woods, it’s being “there” and “connecting” – healing yourself.
I still love connecting the phrase with just being in nature. That peace of mind. It’s always been like that for us (both my wife and I). We use to live near Barcelona, however, just a couple minutes from a large natural park. In Valencia, it was the same. In Dusseldorf, again, just a hop over to beautiful paths that take you through what seems endless forests.
Sports have always been my balance to the corporate world. Long hours and brain-draining tasks that build up on the inside. However, when you disconnect with the day-to-day craziness and connect with nature, it’s solemn. It’s peaceful. It’s soothing.
Hiking is something I’ve done since I was a kid and we now love doing it with our kids because it creates that tranquil peace of mind. Nature to me has such a restorative power. One that refreshes the soul, nourishes the body and mind with a wave of peace, so that it pulls me out of my day to day hassles. I can totally see why it’s called “Shinrin-Yoku.”
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been doing some reading on this term, nature and its effects on the body, however, there are no concrete facts (like with many studies). The theories as to why nature brings us such tranquility range from clean air to lack of noise and pollution to immune-boosting effect through the fine mist from “wood essential oils.” One theory even revolved around the suggestion that it relates to the way that trees, birds and the lighting gently grab our attention – while meandering.
Whatever it is, going back to the roots, out of our concrete jungles and into a space that is not home, but “home” absolutely fascinates me. A study released by the Journal of Affective Disorders showed that volunteers who were suffering from depression, partaking to a 50-minute walk through the woods were able to improve their cognition, measured through the ability to remember a random string of digits and repeat in reverse order, compared to those who walked through city streets.
“In a lot of natural areas, you’re away from loud noises and distractions,” Dr. Berman, part of the above study explains. “It tends to be less crowded so you don’t have to worry about bumping into people, and it also has interesting stimulation to look at, which captures your attention automatically.”
In contrast, honking horns and traffic lights and crowded sidewalks – and pretty much every other ingredient of modern life in a big city – constantly force you to exert your voluntary attention to react or block them out, leaving you more cognitively depleted.
“All this makes it sound as if the benefits of nature are mostly in your head. It’s true that simply looking out a window at nature or, to a slightly lesser extent, looking at pictures of nature scenes can produce some of the same effects. But the physical environment itself may also play a role”, Dr. Berman notes.
Personally, it gets my serotonin levels going. I love nature. My wife loves it. My kids love it. Our dogs love it. Being outdoors and in the wild is sometimes where I feel like I need to be. Not crammed in an office to succeed at what society tells you you need to do. It’s about going back to our roots. Connecting with our real selves again. Not this artificial social networking facade we all live or chasing job titles that ultimately don’t even matter. Therefore I encourage you and challenge you, even if you don’t like to just “wander”, to take time out of your schedule and get away from our hectic city life. Go find peace within – hike, sit and breathe, meditate or whatever other forms of nature-related outdoor activity you want to do – just do it. See what difference it makes to your soul and mind and then hit me up afterward to tell me about your experience and why you did it. I love hearing these types of stories.