About four decades ago, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries created the term shinrin-yoku which means to absorb the forest atmosphere, aka “forest bathing.” While no actual bathing is required, to get the physical and mental health benefits, it is necessary to immerse your senses in the sights, smells, and sounds of a natural setting. But does forest bathing really enhance health?
What Does the Research Say?
One may be surprised at the amount of research that has been done on the health benefits of forest bathing since it was first introduced. For example, a 2022 analysis of 22 different studies showed that forest bathing was effective at enhancing mental health and in particular reducing anxiety.1 This is consistent with a 2020 study involving stressed-out college students that found as little as 10 minutes of sitting or walking in nature eased anxiety and mental health strain.2 In another study, visitors to a park were surveyed and those who stayed in the park for at least 20 minutes had significantly higher levels of overall life satisfaction compared to the visitors who did not spend as much time in the park.3
And it’s not just good for mental health. A 2019 review of 28 different studies found that forest bathing may help improve heart health, immunity, and inflammation in addition to enhancing emotional and mental health.4
No Forest Needed
While it’s referred to as forest bathing, you don’t need to travel to a heavily wooded area, which is just not possible for many people. Instead, a park, beach, trail, or any form of nature will do.
To prepare for your forest bath, turn off or silence your phone so you can be fully present in your natural setting. Take a few deep breaths and focus on what your senses are telling you. Are the birds chirping? Does the sun feel hot on your face? Do you smell grass, flowers, or pines? Is the breeze causing the trees to sway? Take it all in as you look at your natural surroundings. If you decide to walk, walk at a pace that allows you to continue to pay attention to your senses and your surroundings.
If you think you don’t have enough time for a forest bath, think again because it only takes less than 20 minutes a day to get all those great health benefits.5 Enjoy!
Taking a walk out in nature? Find out what gratitude walks are and the benefits it has on your health. For more tips on nutrition, staying healthy and motherhood follow us on Facebook @kalvits and Instagram at @kalvitamins!
- Kotera Y, Richardson M, Sheffield D. Effects of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and nature therapy on mental health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. 2022;20:337-361. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11469-020-00363-4
- Meredith GR, Rakow DA, Eldermire E, et al. Minimum time dose in nature to positively impact the mental health of collage-aged students, and how to measure it: a scoping review. Front Psychol. 2020;10. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02942/full
- Yuen HK, Jenkins GR. Factors associated with changes in subjective being immediately after urban park visit. International Journal of Environmental Health Research. 2020;30(2):134-145. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09603123.2019.1577368?forwardService=showFullText&tokenAccess=Rw6maPZfB2sZAhbS5pwK&tokenDomain=eprints&doi=10.1080%2F09603123.2019.1577368&doi=10.1080%2F09603123.2019.1577368&doi=10.1080%2F09603123.2019.1577368&
- Wen Y, Yan Q, Pan Y, et al. Medical empirical research on forest bathing (shinrin-yoku): a systematic review. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine. 2019;24. https://environhealthprevmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12199-019-0822-8
- White MP, Alcock I, Grellier J, et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports. 2019;9. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3