It’s not everyday that you hear someone introducing themselves as an “expert in forest medicine.” After studying trees for decades, Qing Li, a medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School, can walk into a room and say those words. His extensive knowledge on trees – and their healing power – is now gathered into a book, “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness.”
The average sleep time after a two-hour forest walk increases by 15 percent, or 54 minutes.
Featuring more than 100 color photographs from forests around the world, the book is meant to be a guide to the therapeutic Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.
Here are some of the many health benefits of forest bathing, according to Dr. Li:
It puts you in a good mood & you’ll sleep better. The average sleep time after a two-hour forest walk increases by 15 percent, or 54 minutes. Walking anywhere reduces anxiety, but walking in forest environments has a positive effect on vigor and fatigue. On the other hand, the infinite fractal patterns of nature are so relaxing that looking at them can reduce your stress by as much as 60 percent.
It boost your immune system. A forest-bathing trip once a month is enough to maintain a high level of natural killer (NK) cell activity. People with higher NK activity show a lower incidence of diseases such as cancer.
It helps you think more clearly. Walking in nature can help change the way you think about things and see them in a different light. It can also boost problem-solving ability and creativity by 50 percent.
Shinrin-yoku is suitable for any level of fitness, and it can even be done indoors. Some quick tips from the book:
- Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet
- Walk aimlessly and slowly
- Go barefoot or make sure to make contact with nature some other way: Plunge your hands into a pile of leaves, pick up a pebble from the bottom of a stream, etc.
- You don’t need a forest to practice shinrin-yoku. You can do it wherever there are trees, such as a nearby park or your garden
- Bring the forest indoors with air-purifying plants (peace lily, golden pothos, English ivy, Gerbera daisy or spider plant), essential oils (pine, Douglas fir, spruce, tea tree, fir needle) or candles.
Snack On this well-being test:
Download for FREE the POMS (Profile of Mood States) questionnaire. This is a widely used tool to measure the success of shinrin-yoku. Take it before and then after your forest-bathing, to track your own mood improvements.