Spending quiet time in wooded areas is viewed as good medicine in Japan, and now this practice—Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”—is catching on here with scientists and park lovers alike.
Mindfully soaking up a forest’s sensory stimuli (the aroma of damp wood, the sound of crunching leaves, the feeling of plush moss) has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and blood pressure. In fact, sitting in the woods for as little as 15 minutes was enough to noticeably ease anxiety and raise energy, found scientists at Chiba University in Japan. And breathing in phytoncides, compounds naturally released by trees, may ramp up your immune system’s disease-fighting natural killer cells for more than a month, according to an Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine study.
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Numerous US parks and resorts now offer guided forest-bathing activities, including hikes, meditation, and yoga under the canopy. “You walk out of the forest with your shoulders lower and more space and silence in your mind,” says Hope Parks, Wellhouse supervisor and fitness instructor at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm resort, which offers a Deep Healing Woods program. To find forest therapy near you, go to natureandforesttherapy.org.