A traditional Japanese technique known as shinrin-yoku, or in other words, forest bathing, is a very beneficial method that can help improve your mental health. First, you drag a bathtub out into the thick of the woods. Next, you bring buckets of warm water and fill the bathtub up. Then, you lift your shirt off and…
Just kidding! Despite the misleading name, shinrin-yoku, -- shinrin meaning forest and yoku meaning bath – this technique simply refers to being in nature and taking a walk in the forest for less than an hour. This method is recognized in Japan as a form of preventative health care. A study from Nippon Medical School in Tokyo has revealed that trees release antimicrobial compounds called phytoncides. Phytoncides offer therapeutic benefits which are similar to aromatherapy. That’s why a light walk near the woods can lower cortisol levels, reduce blood pressure, and decrease anxiety.
And what if you don’t have forest trails nearby? Well, a street lined with trees or even a “green space” can do the trick. Taking a walk outside, no matter where you are, improves your mental state. This is a great coping strategy to use during these difficult times, when many people are experiencing stronger symptoms of anxiety and intrusive thoughts borne of uncertainty about the future. Going for a walk and inhale the freshness of nature is a good way to stay grounded in the moment. This is especially important since according to a study done by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his/her time indoors. Similarly, according to Nature Brain, the average Canadian spends over 90% of his/her time indoors.
When going on a nature walk, be sure to leave your devices at home so you can be focused on the soothing sounds of nature, as opposed to texts and notifications from your phone. Focus on your five senses and try to feel the calmness of nature through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. It is also good to find a trail or a place outside where you feel comfortable in. For instance, both a calming forest path and a favourite childhood spot would be great choices. However, forest-bathing is not limited to just walking. Other activities people engage in outdoors include yoga, eating in the forest, meditation, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, art classes, pottery and plant observation. You don’t need to be concerned about whatever physical shape you are in, because forest bathing works for any level of fitness.
Forest bathing is a very healthy and necessary practice not just in Japan. It is always strongly recommended for everyone to get outside and be in nature. Below is a list of local hiking trails in B.C, along with pictures that include the approximate location and the address.
Local hiking trails:
Belcarra Regional Park
Rocky Point Trail
Admiralty Point Park
Written by Caitlin Astrom DeWitt