Forest Bathing and Chinese Medicine

Most people spend a good portion of their lives indoors. Artificial climates and lighting over time can dull our senses. Take time to get outside, especially now that the warmer weather is here. Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-Yoku, is a technique developed in Japan in the 1980’s to boost health and wellbeing. Forest bathing refers to the activity of visiting a green space, park or forest and walking or sitting in a relaxed way. The simple activity has been shown to boost the immune system, reduce stress, reduce blood pressure, promote restful sleep and increase energy levels. How can such a simple thing have such a profound effect on our bodies? The truth is we need nature, we need this calm space to let the eyes rest, the mind wander and just be.

Chinese medicine also understands this truth. At the core of Chinese medicine is the understanding that we are not separate from nature. Humans are a microcosm of the natural world. Our bodies are a reflection of nature. This is because Chinese medicine arose out of Confucian and Daoist thought. At the core these philosophies/religions believe that the great challenge of human life is balance and moderation, and that man is a reflection of the natural world. Homeostasis is of utmost importance. In Chinese medicine we try to balance yin and yang, hot and cold, dampness and dryness. Forest bathing is a great tool to assist acupuncture treatment because it naturally balances the mind and body. While forest bathing might still be on the outskirts of our awareness, in Japan it is integrated into their medical system and even covered by insurance. Forest trails are tested for quality. Quality is judged by blood sampling study participants to make sure that natural killer cells, an important component of the immune system, were raised to a certain level. The U.S. in on our way and some researchers believe that forest bathing will enjoy the same renaissance that yoga did 30 years ago. In 2012 the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy was founded in California. We’re on our way!