The concept of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, originated in Japan in the 1980s as a way to combat the negative effects of urbanization and promote wellness.
The practice involves spending time in nature, often in forests, with the intention of improving one’s physical and mental health. Over the years, scientific research has supported the positive effects of forest bathing on human health and well-being. In this post, we’ll explore the science behind forest bathing and its potential benefits.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
One of the primary benefits of forest bathing is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Spending time in nature has been shown to lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, and increase levels of endorphins, which are associated with pleasure and happiness. A study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine found that participants who spent time in a forest had significantly lower levels of cortisol than those who spent time in an urban environment.
Boosts Immune System Function
Forest bathing has also been shown to boost immune system function. Trees release chemicals called phytoncides, which are antimicrobial compounds that protect them from insects and rot. When humans inhale these compounds, they stimulate the production of natural killer cells, which are a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection and cancer. A study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology found that spending time in a forest increased the activity of natural killer cells and improved immune system function.
Improves Mood and Cognitive Function
Forest bathing has also been shown to improve mood and cognitive function. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that participants who spent time in a forest had significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to those who spent time in an urban environment. Another study published in PLoS One found that participants who spent time in a forest had improved cognitive function compared to those who spent time in an urban
Enhances Sleep Quality
Finally, forest bathing has been shown to enhance sleep quality. Exposure to natural light and fresh air can help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, which is the internal biological clock that regulates sleep and wake cycles. A study published in BioPsychoSocial Medicine found that spending time in a forest improved sleep quality and reduced the amount of time it took participants to fall asleep.
The science behind forest bathing supports the practice as a way to improve physical and mental health. Spending time in nature can reduce stress and anxiety, boost immune system function, improve mood and cognitive function, and enhance sleep quality. If you’re looking for a way to improve your overall well-being, consider incorporating forest bathing into your routine.
Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health
and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), 9-17.
Song, C., Ikei, H., & Miyazaki, Y. (2016). Physiological effects of nature therapy: A review of the
research in Japan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(8),
Tsunetsugu, Y., Park, B. J., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku”
(taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan. Environmental Health and
Preventive Medicine, 15(1), 27-37.
Lee, J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Takayama, N., Park, B. J., & Li, Q. (2015). Effect of forest bathing on
physiological and psychological responses in young Japanese male subjects. Public Health,