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Shinrin-yoku: Forest Baths to Relax

Shinrin-yoku is what is called in Japan to enter a forest atmosphere. It represents a therapy to free oneself from the tensions that urban life offers today.

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Shinrin-yoku is what is called in Japan to enter a forest atmosphere. It represents a therapy to free oneself from the tensions that urban life offers today. Nature can be, on occasions, a good ally to restore the health and quality of life of people who suffer stress at work or personal level.

The term Shinrin-yoku means to absorb the atmosphere of the forest to avoid diseases related to the tension of large cities. We think that being in contact with unpleasant situations is one of the causes of long-term illnesses.

Forest therapy or Shinrin-yoku

Forest therapy or Shinrin-yoku emerged in 1982 in the Forestry Agency of Japan as an alternative to reduce stress levels. Precisely, it is a therapy based on Buddhist and Shinto principles that proclaim an integral contact with nature. Through the senses, the person establishes a feedback with the whole natural environment to re-establish his inner peace.

Although it is a therapy that was born in Japan, it is gaining more and more followers in the world. In Spain, it is called “forest bath” and it consists, as its name implies, in going through nature. In this way, the individual achieves a state of relaxation and without having ingested any kind of remedy.

What are the benefits of performing Shinrin-yoku?

Researchers from the University of Chiba, led by Yoshifumi Miyazaki, have studied the benefits of being in full contact with the forest. Through a stress biomarker, they determined that those subjects in contact with urban environments had higher levels of cortisol compared with those who were in contact with a natural environment.

Applying neurobiology techniques, they observed that the forest decreases cognitive activities and increases those related to pleasure. The trees would release volatile compounds beneficial to the immune system, which are called phytoncides. They are allelochemic antimicrobials that substantially benefit health, widely used in holistic medicine.

“It’s about taking the time to notice what we see, breathe deeply, feel the contact with the air, the textures of the leaves, listen to the wind among the trees, hear the birds.”

-Amos Clifford-

How to carry out Shinrin-yoku therapy?

Millions of Japanese affected by stress perform forest therapy every year. In addition, thanks to the different official centers designated by the Forestry Agency of Japan, it is very accessible. The Shinhin-yoku therapy involves entering the forest, during this period performing various breathing techniques for two hours.

Participants are checked before and after receiving therapy, to check whether or not there have been improvements. In this way, the effectiveness of the treatment is immediately verified, noting substantial changes in well-being. In short, you can appreciate the importance of Shinrin-yoku in our emotional life.

Being exposed to nature not only improves the psychic balance and the general well-being of the organism. It would also stimulate changes in the nervous system. Precisely, it would positively influence irritability, anger, depression, anxiety and tension.

Shinrin-yoku: final reflections

In conclusion, the Shinrin-yoku is a natural treatment to perform at any time of life. With proper practice helps to achieve an optimal state of relaxation. In addition, contact with nature improves the quality of life and the emotional state. Therefore, breathing, feeling the wind in your face and moving forward without worrying too much about anything, is one of the pillars that makes Shinrin-yoku a worldwide success.

“We have passed 99.9% of our evolution in natural environments (…). Our physiological functions are still adapted to these environments and in the day to day we can achieve a feeling of well-being if we synchronize our rhythms with those of the environment”.

-Yoshifumi Miyazaki

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