Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Forest bathing practices focus on a slow, mindful walk in a forest environment and are generally guided by a trained professional. Research conducted over the last 30 years demonstrates that forest bathing is not only one of the most accessible ways to get in touch with the natural world, but is also one of the most simple ways to lower excessive stress levels.
Planetary and human health is undoubtedly in a current state of critical challenge and strain, but the blueprint for healing and happiness surrounds us. Although Americans are spending less and less time outdoors (the average American is spending less than 5% of their day outdoors), we have not entirely lost our connection to the Earth. Outside our front doors, there are trees, animals, creeks, and an enormous diversity of life that research shows, and our intuition knows, has extraordinarily powerful healing effects on human health and well-being. By opening up sensory awareness in nature through the practice of forest bathing, we have the potential to reduce stress, moderate chronic disease, and fully awaken to the gift of being alive.
We, as a human species, and as individual humans, are not alone on this planet. The Earth holds and nurtures a vast ecosystem of life, life that is intrinsically interconnected and can mirror, support, and provide healing for one another. As humans reawaken to the physical, psychological, and spiritual healing that nature provides for us, perhaps we can begin reciprocating healing right back to the Earth and all the life she carries in a meaningful way. The future of our species depends on it.