Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a Japanese mindfulness practice that promotes physical and mental well-being. In the 1990s, researchers began studying the benefits of fully immersing yourself in nature. This concept was initially founded in the 1980s by the Director General of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Tomohide Akiyama, who developed forest bathing to address the growing adverse effects of a general disassociation from nature. In addition to receiving medicinal benefits from repeated exposure to nature, forest bathing inspires a greater desire to preserve public lands.
Public lands, including national parks, forests, and wilderness areas, face various threats, including climate change, deforestation, pollution, and habitat destruction. These threats can significantly impact the health and well-being of the ecosystems that make up our public lands. Climate change, for instance, is causing temperatures to rise, precipitation patterns to shift, and extreme weather events to become more frequent. Deforestation for agriculture, logging, and other land uses can devastate ecosystems, leading to soil erosion, water pollution, and biodiversity loss. Pollution from human activities can also negatively impact both human and ecological health. At the same time, habitat destruction can fragment habitats and disrupt the natural balance of ecosystems, leading to declines in biodiversity and potentially contributing to species extinction.
Forest bathing can be a powerful tool for addressing these threats and protecting public lands. By inspiring a greater appreciation for the environment and encouraging individuals to engage in environmentally responsible behaviors, forest bathing can help promote sustainable land use practices and boost the protection of public lands for future generations. Research indicates that forest bathing not only protects against anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental afflictions but also has physical benefits such as calming the parasympathetic nervous system, regulating blood pressure, and improving the number of natural killer cells that protect against disease in the body.
Forest bathing is easy and convenient, and spending as little as 15 minutes in nature can positively affect mental health. To engage in forest bathing, find a park or forest providing plenty of trees and wildlife, turn off your phone, and fully immerse yourself in the experience by listening to the sounds of nature, breathing deeply, and connecting with the world around you. Slow down, sit quietly, and spend as much time as possible. Pay attention to how you feel and consciously recognize your movements and the senses around you. By engaging in forest bathing and protecting public lands, we can promote both personal and planetary health.