Shinrin Yoku Ecotherapy

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I have done many Ecotherapy Hiking Meditations in the past, and offered them to my clients under that name, until I discovered Shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.”

This Japanese therapy really appeals to me as a Reiki Practitioner, as an Aromatherapy Consultant, and as an avid hiking enthusiast.

In Japan, a forest bathing trip, called Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) in Japanese, Sanlimyok (삼림욕) in Korean, is a short, leisurely visit to a forest and is regarded as being similar to natural aromatherapy.

A forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for relaxation and fun while breathing in the fresh air that is filled with  wood essential oils, called phytoncides. Phytoncides are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees and other plants, that keep them from rotting or being eaten by insects and animals. Plants that have the most of these substances are from the garlic/onion, pine and citrus families.

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These organic essences support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system’s way of fighting cancer.

Many health care researchers and practitioners say that ecotherapy (also known as green therapy, nature therapy, and earth-centered therapy) — a term coined by pastoral counselor Howard Clinebell in his 1996 book of the same name — can have regenerative powers, improving mood and easing anxiety, stress, and depression.

But that’s not all. Health care providers are also giving their patients “nature prescriptions” to help treat a variety of medical conditions, from post-cancer fatigue to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression, especially seasonal affective disorder (SAD). New research is expanding those findings. A 2007 study from the University of Essex in the U.K., for example, found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. The researchers found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation.

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Incorporating forest bathing trips into a good lifestyle was first proposed in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan. It has now become a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan.

Scientifically-proven Benefits of Shinrin-yoku:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered pulse rate
  • Reduced cortisol levels
  • Increased vigor
  • Reduced anger
  • Reduced depression

Just as impressive are the results that we are experiencing as we make this part of our regular practice:

  • Deeper and clearer intuition
  • Increased flow of energy
  • Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
  • Increased flow of eros/life force
  • Deepening of friendships
  • Overall increase in sense of happiness

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.” – John Muir

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My approach to Shinrin Yoku combines mindfulness, the aesthetics of making a spiritual pilgrimage and communing with nature. I use both silent & guided activities and meditations to help you to dispel fear,  open your senses, hone your intuition, and experience the forest as you never have before. There are various levels of altitude, vegetation, and trail difficulty; however, each adventure is one that will not be like any other. Each trip is unique, and comes with it’s own set of pros and cons.

Nature doesn’t have to be scary, it can be your friend. It can show you great, beautiful, and awe-inspiring things within you and within nature itself.

My goal is to have you encounter nature, embrace your inner wildness, and even perhaps meet a Nature Spirit or two!

But what I really hope and wish for you is to start to notice what’s going on in the natural world around you — either in your back yard, at a special spot, or the park down the street. It doesn’t always have to be a grand hike into the wilderness, because nature is truly all around you! In this way you will appreciate the natural world more, and as a result, make an even bigger effort to go on periodic Shinrin Yoku adventures.

References

Creative Commons photography courtesy of: Trehman, Scott Parker, and Mike Baird.

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