It is of no surprise that shinrin-yoku or forest bathing started in Japan as two thirds of it is covered by diverse regions of forest.
Their two main religions Shinto and Buddhism believe that the forest is “the realm of the divine” and in Shinto many spirits, called Kami, are within all the constituent parts of nature including the trees.
In the 1980’s “technostress” or “karoshi” meaning death by overwork, was prevalent in the cities. A government department was directed to test scientifically the effects of nature on the human body and psyche. The benefits of connecting with nature with all ones senses, literally bathing in the forest, resulted in an evolving therapy that has been borne out of intuition and supported by peer reviewed scientific research.
The calming in the frontal brain activity reduces “sympathetic” nerve activity, namely our flight or fight actions, and is replaced by our rest and relax “parasympathetic” nerve activity.
Shinrin-yoku improves the body’s natural resistance to disease which is suppressed under modern day stress conditions.
In short, it reduces blood pressure, stress hormones (cortisol) and blood sugar levels. It lifts depression, improves quality of sleep, boosts the immune system and increases the number and activity of white blood cells (called NK or natural killer cells) killing unwanted cells with the help of anti cancer proteins. It also improves concentration, memory and positive feelings. Bacteria in soil and the chemicals called phytoncides released from trees all aid our wellbeing in this preventative therapy.