Now is the season to go hiking and enjoy the outdoors. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with many trails throughout the area that are easily accessible. Well, now science has proven that not only is hiking in the forest a beautiful experience, it’s also great for your health!
Imagine yourself on a dirt path in the forest surrounded by tall trees. You close your eyes and take a deep breath to smell the leaves and absorb the aroma of nature. You hear birds chirping in the distance. Walking in nature and spending time listening to the sounds, touching the earth, and just being in this natural environment is a very healing experience. Many people have been visiting forests for a long time. However, recently, it has been recognized as actually being beneficial to relieve stress and anxieties that come with modern living.
This act of walking and spending time in the forest is what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku, 森林浴、 or forest bathing. If we examine the Japanese characters, the first is mori 森、もり, or woods, the second is hayashi 林、はやし or forest, and the last is abiru, 浴びる、あびる、meaning to bathe. Together, they read as Shinrin-yoku. It’s the act of spending time in the forest, walking and using all your senses to appreciate the gifts of nature.
To understand Shinrin-yoku and it’s benefits here is a wonderful video filmed by faircompanies.com:
Academic research on Shinrin-yoku began in Japan 40 years ago. Professor Qing Li is the man in the video who has been researching the benefits of spending time in the woods and forests. Through his research he’s found that our walking and “bathing” in the forest helps our immune system. He says we must walk slowly and breathe deeply to absorb all the benefits of the forest. Such simple and sound advice. In feng shui teachings we always say that nature is healing and nature heals us. We just have to take advantage to what nature is offering us on a daily basis: the environment to stay healthy and heal ourselves.
We just need to remember to stop, slow down and listen to the earth. In the city, constantly distracted by man-made sounds such as traffic, music, T.V., construction, sirens, airplanes, and trains, we forget about these things. But just being in the forest, away from the stresses of modern day life, our human instincts and senses are happy to be awakened. When in the forest, take the time to listen to the sounds of nature. Birds chirping, wind rustling the leaves, water running down streams, small creatures in the bushes and just the sound of silence. Make an effort to turn off that cell phone and be present in the moment. It’s not only a visual experience it’s actually really good for you! Happy hiking!