Walking In The Forest Is Better For You Than You Can Imagine

They say we ought to slow down from time to time to stop and smell the flowers. That sounds great in theory, especially for those of us moving at hyper speed, but the logistics of it are another matter.

One way to get a quick taste of this slowing down business is by doing what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” which entails basking in the forest’s atmosphere as you move slowly, calmly, and mindfully, soaking it in through all five senses while lingering for a few hours. A host of studies show that this can do wonders for your health.

This modern take on an ancient practice got its start in Japan in 1982, when the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries began promoting walks in the woods as a tonic for mind and body. About a decade ago, they also began funding research into the health effects of “forest therapy,” and the practice has been catching on all over Asia, as well as North America and Europe.

Yakushima, Japan. 

Yakushima, Japan.  iStock

Qing Li, an associate professor at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, writes in an email that Japan, with 70 percent of its land forested, is well-suited to this practice, and there are now 60 Forest Therapy Trails designated for shinrin-yoku, visited by millions every year. Dr. Li’s research shows that forest therapy can boost immunity, lower blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones as well as increase energy and reduce anxiety, depression and anger.

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