Forest Bathing is a translation of the Japanese term Shinrin-Yoku. The Japanese have been using mindful forest walks for years to maintain and restore wellbeing. At it’s heart the term means a recreational trip to the forest for relaxation and wellbeing (Source: Wikipedia).
The benefits of being in nature have been widely studied, and it is thought that being around trees in particular has a specific impact on our health. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. We do the opposite. So at a purely basic level there is a symbiotic relationship there that means that we are in an oxygen rich environment when we are around trees. The nature of the space we occupy also provides benefits to our health. Being free from traffic pollution, noise, concrete and tarmac, and having the sounds of nature are restorative. These are some of the findings by Forest Research into the benefits of woodlands and forests:
• Woodlands are restorative environments: the sounds, sights and smells experienced in a wood play a role in reducing stress by providing interest and stimulation of the senses.
• Woodlands, and in particular individual trees, often hold specific meaning for people; they are seen as representing nature, particularly in the urban environment. The age of veteran trees often inspires awe in people and provides a link between the past, present and future.
• Trees and woodlands are part of a rich narrative of stories, legends and myths dating back thousands of years.
• Woodlands can screen out noise, for example, from nearby traffic.
• Many woodlands have the ability ‘to absorb’ large numbers of people without seeming crowded.
• Woodlands offer a range of options for various types of activities from gentle to vigorous, including walking, cycling, horse-riding, nature trails, picnics, den building and mountain biking.
• Carrying out physical activity in an attractive environment such as a woodland may encourage people to maintain their activities in the long term.
• Woodlands are inexpensive places to visit: an important factor when considering health inequalities and social inclusion.