“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

Increasing bodies of research have supported the therapeutic effects of nature immersion over the last decade. This research has served to remind urban dwellers of the restorative power of being in nature.

An excellent introduction to one of the ways in which to experience this is provided by the Global Spa Trends Report which provides an overview of an activity which is now being referred to as forest bathing.

The report reads:

The term “forest bathing” has nothing to do with water, and is more than just a poetic way of describing a “walk in the woods,” something humans have, of course, been doing for five million years (if never less so than today). The Japanese government coined the term in 1982, a translation of “shinrin-yoku,” which literally means “taking in the forest atmosphere.”

This Japanese concept revolves around a deceptively simple practice: quietly walking and exploring, with a mind deliberately intent on – and all senses keenly open to – every sound, scent, color and “feel” of the forest, in all its buzzing bio-diversity. With forest bathing (and the increasingly expert-led “forest therapy,” or shinrin-ryoho), mindfulness meets nature, and the goal is to “bathe” every physical cell and your entire psyche in the forest’s essence. No power hiking needed here; you just wander slowly, breathe deeply and mindfully, and stop and experience whatever catches your soul – whether drinking in the fragrance of that little wildflower, or really feeling the texture of that birch bark.

Poetic? Pleasurable? Yes. But it’s the science behind the practice that’s now taking forest bathing global, as a growing mountain of evidence indicates there’s strong medicine for human bodies and brains that a forest uniquely dispenses.

Forest therapy studies have been led by Japan, whose government funded $4 million in research from 2004-2013. Today, the research database PubMed returns 100+ studies on the health impact of forest bathing, including studies indicating that it significantly lowers blood pressure (-1.4 percent), heart rate (-5.8 percent), cortisol levels (-12.4 percent) and sympathetic nerve activity (-7 percent) compared with city walks, while also alleviating stress and depression.1 The most provocative of these studies conclude that exposure to phytoncides, the airborne, aromatic chemicals/oils emitted by many trees, have a long-lasting impact on people’s immune system markers, boosting natural killer (NK) cells and anticancer proteins by 40 percent.

It’s research like this that has made forest bathing a pillar of preventative medicine in Japan, and increasingly common in places like Korea (where it’s called “salim yok”), Taiwan and Finland. It may be hard to grasp what a serious, widespread practice this is in Japan, where a quarter of the population partakes in forest bathing and millions visit the 55+ official Forest Therapy Trails annually, prompting a plan to designate an additional 50 such sites within 10 years. Visitors to Japanese Forest Therapy Trails report that they’re asked to have their blood pressure and other biometrics taken pre- and post-“bathing,” in the quest for ever-more data.

Major media worldwide have been ramping up coverage of the fascinating medical evidence. And in an era of unprecedented urbanization and digitization (with the average person now “bathing” his face seven hours a day in the glow of a screen), we humans are in the throes of a forest-deprivation crisis. The convergence of these two trends – growing awareness of the medical benefits of time spend in forests, and alienation from this essential, yet increasingly exotic, human experience – will drive demand for forest bathing experiences in the year (and years) ahead.

The integrated wellness approach of The Banyans embraces the therapeutic effect of nature and forest bathing forms a part of our holistic approach, providing restoration, recovery and rejuvenation of the whole person.

Call us now on 1300 BANYAN (1300 226 926) or email welcome@thebanyans.com.au for a confidential discussion about how you or someone you care about can benefit from The Banyans Health and Wellness Residence.

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