‘Nature is good medicine’: What is forest bathing and why are people doing it?

Reposted from Vancouver is awesome  Published Mar 21, 2024, Author: Alanna Kelly

Getting outside and immersing yourself in a forest can have real health benefits, say experts.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia say “forest bathing” or “forest therapy” can alleviate stress, uplift mood and even boost cognitive functions. It can also reduce one’s heart rate and improve sleep quality. 

“In Vancouver, we have fantastic forests for people to enjoy, so I encourage people to go outside,” says associate professor Guangyu Wang, who works in UBC’s department of forest resources management. “Don’t take medication if you feel sad, nature is good medicine.” 

Shinrin-yoku — or forest bathing — is a term that originated in Japan back in 1982 and emphasizes immersive experiences in forests. It’s a guided 15- to 30-minute walk through the forest, listening for song, touching soil and trees, taking deep breaths and emotionally connecting to nature. These walks can provide a holistic and deep experience. 

Wang, who’s also the director of the Multidisciplinary Institute of Natural Therapy (MINT), is leading a free forest bathing experience. Both indoor and outdoor experiences are being offered through MINT once enough participants register. 

“We walk the forest to open your five senses, we sit down to do a meditation and then we normally have a tea ceremony,” he tells Glacier Media, adding those who live in urban centres away from green spaces are great candidates. 

“You bring these people to the relaxing forest and it can improve their immune system and can lower blood pressure,” says Wang.

People can also bring the forest experience into their homes and have a forest bathing experience by recreating the natural world. That includes the use of plants, sounds, scents and lighting. 

Wang says the type of environment depends on the person. For university students who are stressed from school and might not have time to go for a walk, a virtual forest yoga and meditation can be helpful.

For seniors who find it difficult to walk in the forest, Wang says they’ll use virtual reality or a screen to mimic the sounds of a bird or waterfall and show the forest environment. 

“We have so many different kinds of videos that can be used at home or music for meditation,” he says. “The key thing is meditation and opening the five senses to get the forest into your body.” 

Wang says researchers will assess each participant. For those who opt for the outdoor forest bathing, they’ll be brought to Pacific Spirit Park in Vancouver to see what practice helps them best.

He notes people often see results right away. 

“It’s quite convincing most of the time.” 


Source: Forest bathing: The new wellness trend backed by B.C. research – Vancouver Is Awesome