Spending time in forests – Shinrin Joku

Spending time around trees, forgetting busy life, and mindfully observing nature and its wonders. Of course! Tell me about it! And yet, for several reasons, people have been turning away from nature’s ways.

Life in the city

As a former city dweller, I do understand the busyness of life and time scarcity. But never have I said no to being surrounded by greenery. Even during days when having plants meant carrying all those heavy bags of soil and plant pots to a flat on the fourth floor. Even then, our terrace was a paradise of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. A true feast for the eyes and nose, with its colorful shades, floral scents, aromas, and fragrances.

Watching me during my urban gardening for some time, my husband one day declared: “We need to buy you a house with a garden”. And so we moved from the city to its suburbs.

How nature saved my life

But don’t we all know it? Life is not all fun and games. During my long journey into a dark night of the soul, I spontaneously felt going out and wandering around the fields and forests was the best thing I could do. Equipped with a good portion of optimism and hope for the future, off I went.

Wearing that confident expression on my face, defying aches and discomforts, I somehow knew going out and paying attention to the life out there would work miracles. Snapping of twigs, leaves whispering, and that humming and rustle coming from somewhere; birds chirping, maybe desperately wanting to tell me something. What more could you wish for?

I remember spending an awful lot of time in the woods, playing seek and hide with our devoted German shepherd, squinting at the sun, hugging trees, especially my loved ones – beeches. When out of breath I used to sit down on a stump, which usually helped me notice all the little creepy crawlies and made me wonder what their underground realm looked like.

And I forgot about the bitter reality I was experiencing at the time. Life magically turned into soft, calming, and bright moments of sheer joy. Happiness to be alive, to be able to move, see, and hear. I was so present, captivated by the simplicity and beauty.

At times, well, now that I think of it, so many times, I was sorry I had not taken any crayons and a sketchbook with me. I could observe mysterious tree shapes, colors, and the play of light and shadows for ages and was toying with the idea of captivating the little things on paper.

Being outdoors, embraced by green trees, my walking getting longer and longer, I changed. And so did my health. I recovered and promised myself to share this experience with the world. Well, with those who might benefit from this.

Shinrin Joku

Little did I know that on the other side of the world, in Japan, some clever men invented the so-called forest bathing (Shinrin Joku). More or less the same adventure. Despite its name “Shinrin Joku” has nothing to do with swimming. It is a practice of immersing oneself in nature and its healing properties.

Back in the 1980s, it had already been clear to some that people need to spend time outdoors, in order for them to recalibrate and recharge their batteries.

In principle, it means taking a leisurely walk in a forest, or other natural areas for that matter, and actively engaging with the environment. You are supposed to leave your technological devices behind, and by sharpening your senses observe, and appreciate. Just listening to the sounds, feeling the many textures, and breathing in the fresh air.

Such an escapade from modern life, where spending most of our time in one kind of captivity or another (which is believed to be a norm! ), has shown a significant impact on mental and physical health.

The benefits

Why indulge in FOREST BATHING, and what does it do to us? The answer is simple and you may have heard of it before. In short, it…

  • Helps eliminate distraction and declutter the mind: the color GREEN is said to be truly soothing for tired eyes.
  • Strengthens concentration & confidence; unlike any other music, the chirping of BIRDS is the kind of music that calms an agitated soul.
  • Supports your immune system through mindful breathing. PHYTONCIDES which are natural substances that plants emit to protect themselves are beneficial to humans. Moderate breathing in those chemicals promotes the growth of i.e, natural killer cells. They are key in suppressing cancer- and virus-infected human cells.
  • Reduces multitasking, pressure, and pain. MEDITATION in nature and MINDFUL OBSERVATION of your environment help you find more peace and become more grounded.
  • Relieves tension and anxiety. HUGGING TREES is such a powerful help and fills our bodies with energy, improving our cognitive functions.
  • Promotes being kind to yourself. Nothing is perfect, nor are you. Embrace the WABI-SABI view, based on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The wabi-sabi appreciates the beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, and is a kind reminder for you to follow in nature’s steps.
  • Invites you to tap into your creativity – find INSPIRATION in nature’s manifold expressions.
  • Reconnects you with nature.

In today’s fast-paced world, where stress and anxiety are commonplace, forest bathing offers a simple and effective way to reconnect with nature and improve overall well-being.

By taking the time to immerse oneself in the natural world, individuals can experience the healing power of nature and reconnect with their inner selves.