The Japanese wellbeing trend you need to know about

Spending just 30 minutes in the bush or a park will help your overall wellbeing. And you don't need to do anything! It's called Forest Bathing.

Be here, now. Pic Marcos Gabarda.

Think of it as the new beach. Except you can keep your clothes on. It’s the place to go to relax and let yourself bathe in the peace, the aromas and the dappled light through the trees.

It’s a recent wellness trend to hit the world and it’s not a product, or a pill, or a kind of food . . . it’s an experience. And if you live in a city, this experience can be transformative.

Meet forest bathing, or shinrin -yoku, – literally ‘forest bath’. The concept? Just spend time in a forest, the bush or a park, and breathe in the fresh air. It’s that simple.

And it’s going to help your mind and body in more ways than one. In fact, it’s been practiced in Japan since the 1980s for its medical and mental benefits.

While a trip outside into a peaceful wooded area might sound appealing enough on its own, forest bathing advocates tout its legitimate healing power, like relieving stress and improving physical health.

And not only does being in the presence of nature promote a sense of calm, but breathing in forest air can be more than refreshing; the phytoncides — essential oils from wood — in the air from the trees are antimicrobial and can boost your immune system and may help prevent cancer, according to a 2007 study.

Trees produce these phytoncides to protect themselves from rotting, or being eaten by insects or animals, and apparently this organic compound can help humans, too. Another study showed that “data indicate[d] that phytoncides significantly enhance human NK activity,” — “NK” meaning natural killer cells, or cells in your body that fight tumours and cancer.

And a 2010 medical paper citing studies across 24 forests in Japan, examined shinrin-yoku’s effect on health.

It states, “forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments,” and noted that more research will be dedicated to “forest medicine” as a form of preventative medicine.

James Black, the Scottish self-titled ‘boring economist’ (he’s, not – boring that is) provides 9 scientifically-backed reasons why camping, yes, that means spending at least one night in the bush (believe me, it becomes addictive), is an incredible way to boost our mental and physical health on his website, Wilderness Redefined.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation also cited multiple studies that showed forest bathing and simply spending time in nature can improve the immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce stress and improve mood, increase ability to focus (including in children with ADHD), accelerate recovery from illness or surgery, increase your energy level, and improve sleep. A small study in 1998 also showed that forest bathing can effectively help diabetic patients.

Like earthing and grounding, using forest bathing as a form of therapy is an all-natural, low-cost way to release tension and balance your body out.

And aside from the plethora of benefits for your brain and body, it’s always a nice escape to get away from the city if that’s where you spend the bulk of your time.

Can’t make it to the bush this weekend? Try visiting a park near work or home.

Or diffuse some forest-scented natural oils while meditating or relaxing at home (balsam fir, if you can find it online and Japanese cypress might make you feel like you’re really there!).

Original story courtesy PopSugar Alternative Medicine