Forest bathing, or shinrinyoku, is a Japanese preventative health practice of ancient origins, but brought into popular use for stressed corporate workers in the 1980s.
Specifically, it’s the spending of multiple hours – sometimes several days – immersed in nature. What one does there is individual to the person and often assisted by a guided forest bathing practitioner.
Perhaps it’s a poor reflection on our time and place in history that spending time in nature has become something that has to be prescribed and studied fiercely so as to drive home the benefits.
Certainly our ancestors spent far more time outdoors than we do and many spent far more time outdoors than they ever spent inside whatever shelter they had developed. They didn’t need research to tell them it was something they should be doing more of. They just did it, largely by necessity: hunting, gathering, farming, traveling.
Now, it’s the opposite. Most of us are lucky if we can manage half an hour immersed in nature each day. We don’t need to go outside to gather food for our lunch or tend animals or walk many kilometres to school or work. We can move from our home, to our car to the shopping mall and back without spending more than a few moments outside, but not anywhere near a natural environment. Even if our job takes us outside, it’s often in a constructed or heavily managed environment – building, concreting, plumbing. Farmers and park rangers have got it good.
Keen to get some forest bathing happening? The benefits are wild. Think: stress relief, lowering of blood pressure and improved immune function.
Specifically, a forest is optimal for your forest bathing activity, because there you can breathe in the organic compounds derived from trees. Compounds such as pinene and limonene, which have been linked to increased immune function (PubMedCentral: PMC2793341).
While spending time outside, phone and work left inside, fully immersed in our surroundings, bestows the optimal health benefits, taking 2 hours out of every day to hit the forest might not be something we can manage.
But what we can all do is bring some of the outside inside.
These incredible tree compounds are found in tree-derived essential oils so if you have some tree oils and a diffuser, that’s my challenge for you today and every day.
Pump those oils.
Create your own miniature forest by releasing those compounds into the air of your home and breathe them deeply.
Here are some diffuser blend ideas to get you started. Note: as a general rule, tree and citrus oils are highest in the monoterpenes α-pinene and d-limonene.