6 Steps Towards A Peaceful Mind With Shinrin Yoku

 In Forest Bathing, mindful walking, mindfulness, Shinrin Yoku

The link between nature and wellbeing is long established. There is nearly 40 years of research showing the health benefits of being in nature that includes a reduction in stress, an improvement in mood and a reduction in fatigue. Research has developed the ‘green mind theory’ and has shown how interacting with nature can calm brain chatter. It is also thought that phytoncide exposure from trees can increase your immunity.

What is Shinrin Yoku?

In 1982 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry started a national forest bathing program called Shinrin (forest) Yoku (bathing). The phrase has since been adopted as a general term for immersing yourself in nature and soaking up the atmosphere through your senses. With the focus of Mental Health Awareness Week in 2021 being nature, we thought it would a good time to explore the practical aspects of this method of relaxation.

Six steps to Shinrin Yoku

This concept is about letting nature in and can apply to gardens, the beach, open spaces, parkland as well as woodland. For the benefits of phytoncide a dense forest is best, however, this is more about immersion and is a practical mindfulness exercise, so any natural setting will still have a positive impact.

  • Step one: find a place of connection with nature. Choose a place where you feel safe, you are going to let go of your usual world so also choose somewhere where you will not be disturbed.
  • Step two: choose your time. Maybe early morning will give you the quiet space, or maybe the weekend will allow you to explore without clock watching.
  • Step three: go prepared to leave the material world behind. Leave your phone at home or with you and off in case of emergencies. Commit to the impact of what you are doing and set the expectation to not be disturbed with those around you; tell them what you are doing. This is an exercise in being present and allowing each moment to pass and letting it go. Sunscreen, extra clothing, insect repellent, snacks and water are all helpful in a small backpack.
  • Step four: walk aimlessly, and let your body be your guide. There is no right or wrong. There is no agenda or standard to be reached. No distance to be travelled, no sights to be seen. Walk slowly and purposefully.
  • Step five: let nature in through your senses. Observe your breathing and slow it down. Take three deep breaths, concentrating on the out breath and letting go of your worldly woes. Make each out breath as long as you can, hold your lungs empty for a few seconds and allow the air to refill your lungs naturally without gasping by releasing your stomach muscles.

What can you smell? Damp soil ? Wood musk?

What can you see? Look up, look down, look behind you. Colours, shapes, animals, insects: observe them all.

What can you hear? Crashing waves? Bird song? Rustling leaves?

What can you taste? Sea salt in the air?

What can you touch?

Be mindful not to disturb nature or to touch unknown Fungi: how does the bark of the tree feel? Can you dip your toes or fingers into a stream?  How does the breeze feel against your skin?

  • Step six: pause often and observe yourself. Are carrying any tension? Are you carrying any thoughts? Breathe and let go of them both.

I hope you enjoy this exercise and find peace in the natural world.

Sources:

Green Mind Theory : How Brain-body-behaviour links into natural and social environments for healthy habits https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28665327/

Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20074458/

 

 

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