The Japanese practice of forest bathing — or shinrin-yoku — may result in some impressive health benefits. Here’s what you need to know.
These days, we stay indoors for hours scrolling through social media, binge-watching TV shows, or playing video games. We shop online and have purchases delivered straight to our homes. We live in or commute to cities surrounded by concrete, steel, and smog. Our days are mostly spent away from sunshine, trees, water, and fresh air.
While our modern way of life can be convenient, it’s taking us away from the health benefits of nature. To the point where getting outside should now be a priority. This is where the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku — or forest bathing — can help.
What is forest bathing?
In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries created the term shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing” or “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” The practice encourages people to simply spend time in nature — no actual bathing required. It’s also very low impact, which means you don’t have to go for trail runs or do an intense hike. The goal of forest bathing is to live in the present moment while immersing your senses in the sights and sounds of a natural setting.
refers to the practice of spending time in forested areas for the purpose of enhancing health, wellness, and happiness. The practice follows the general principle that it is beneficial to spend time bathing in the atmosphere of the forest. The Japanese words translate into English as “Forest Bathing.”
How do might you do it?
Enter the forest with an intent to have a direct, uninterrupted, immersive engagement.
Cross the threshold into the forest and acknowledge the ceremonial honor of entering the home of gracious beings.
Take time to become aware of yourself, your body, and what your senses are perceiving
Begin to take notice of each impression you have as it occurs
Move slowly through the forest as you observe everything else that is moving around you
Explore aspects of the forest that enable you to have an intimate appreciation for what you find by connecting with your senses
Sit and discover what has been revealed to you
close your visit with a ceremony before crossing the threshold as you depart
“The problem with our busy city lives, however, is that the stressful events keep piling up. There will be emails to answer, co-workers demanding attention, a deadline looming, the shopping to get done, the bills to be paid. And our cortisol levels remain always slightly raised.
When cortisol is released constantly, it can disrupt all our body’s processes. And people who produce chronically high levels of cortisol are at increased risk of numerous health problems.”
Have you thought about lately what you do with the treasures that others have buried inside you?
Quoting an often remembered parable “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
My mother’s love language was acts of service. Without any conscious purpose I have spent the majority of my life pursuing the following professions, military, police, and education. All of which gave me opportunities to help, protect, and cultivate. Now I’m taking the time to consider what it means to be my mother’s son.
One of her defining traits was fostering. Her grandmother showed her what that meant while raising her from infancy. As a child my mother practiced it with her cousins. As an adult she continued it with coworkers, friends and acquaintances throughout her life.
I am humbled by the daily experience where I engage in the same fostering my mother once did. This manifests as a cherished memory now. One I welcome with warm embrace. Thankfully, I have powerfully available visual cues to remind me of how my mother’s spirit remains present in her absence.
It occurs to me that similar expressions will be born out in her other children, grandchildren, and those others whom she endowed with her loving legacy. There is a good sized list. My hope is that in the days ahead that we live without her, each of us still recognize how we operate as an extension of the seeds she planted within us.
What about you? Who do you think about? What do you remember? What do you see in your life that must have come from them? Will the idea of honoring the heritage they passed on to you bring you peace, comfort, or assurance? Will it bring healing and restoration? Will it help you bury your treasures in the right fields?
Carbohydrates are a problem. At least for me. So out of necessity I searched for a short-term solution where I could cut carbs and lose weight too. I am getting to the point where I need to settle in on a long-term alternative for my diet. This is a good time to reflect on where eating and maintaining Ketosis arrived as a tool for me.
I began with strict daily calorie counts. 25 grams maximum of carbs. To reach the level of fat burning I wanted, my ratio of 4% Calories from carbs, 15% from protein and 81% from fat was what I followed. So, with about 2000 calories daily, I had 77 grams of protein and 184 grams of fat to eat.
Was it hard? You bet it was. Finding enough fat to eat seemed almost impossible. The shock for me was realizing how much the typical American diet is high carb and “low” fat. What was good for me is that I reached Ketosis quickly and saw early weight loss. I did not stay on it very long because of the health risks people around me kept reminding me of.
I found that using a dieting app was indispensable. After looking around a bit I went with Lifesum. The choice of diets with the app were a factor for me. I soon switched to their Ketogenic easy. This meant I now got to eat a whopping 100 grams of carbs each day. My ratio changed to 20% calories from carbs, 15% from protein and 65% from fat. The bad news was that my protein stayed at 77 grams per day. The shift up by 75 grams of carbs was offset by a reduction in 35 grams of fat down to 149 grams a day.
While that may seem easy as the name implies, at first it was hard for me to get up to 100 carbs. I began with the idea that by eating about 4 times I could average about 25 grams of carbs per meal. This average was significant for me because I was wary of how large swings in carb consumption would affect blood sugar.
One of the biggest benefits from this new diet was that it led me on an unending search for healthy, convenient, nutritious and consumable sources of carbohydrates. So many of these foods checked off some of the boxes but not all. They might be extremely hard to prepare, or even harder to digest! Some are delicate and challenging to use. It seemed like the window of when they are ripe, and edible was so small that if you didn’t have a backyard garden full of trees giving birth to them the moment before you ate some, then forget it.
Another benefit was that I lost weight, and on a gradual timeline. I learned over time how I would be able to maintain my goal weight once I reached it. With the 2000 calorie plan, any day I burned more than I consumed contributed to my weight loss. The app was a big help with measuring my daily calorie burns.
Eat at least 4 meals at regular intervals. If fasting, plan the fasting periods with care.
Avoid unhealthy calories. These can lead to very bad consequences. Take the time and make the effort to find healthy types of fat, protein, and carbohydrates for your diet and then eat them in healthy amounts.
Counting calories is a good habit to have. Knowing how much you are eating keeps you out of danger.
Counting the calories that you burn each day has huge benefits. This lets you know if your amount of exercise is contributing to a healthy lifestyle or an unhealthy one.
Healthy dieting can provide better alternatives than caffeine and other stimulants people depend on.
There are so many things to learn about diet and exercise that can impact not only your health but your brain, your skin, your energy, even your sleep.
I come to you with sad news of the death of my close relative. And while life does go on, I’ll never be the same. I want to say now that fact is accepted. For her life meant so much to me that the loss will forever change how I approach my world. However, I need to recover and eventually arrive to a place where I am thriving. That will take time, effort and help from people such as you.
How can you help? Your tolerance with me when you see me feeling bad, your patience with any unexplained anger I show can help me heal. Seeing you, gives me a chance to lean on your strength. I won’t ask you for advice. But when I of course do ask you, be assured that I won’t heed what you tell me, or even appear to appreciate it. I will appreciate your reaching out to spend time, visits, texts, phone calls. And when I don’t respond, I hope you use that as a sign. Seek me out when that happens because it will probably be when I am most vulnerable and need your help more.
Prayers are always welcome. If you ever feel prompted to share with me how loss has impacted your life I hope that you do. I believe it would benefit both of us. It may not seem like it by the way I look or act, but that’s okay, remember I’m grieving, and that often isn’t comfortable.
Let me close with words of gratitude and appreciation. Because each time you help me this way you will be acting out of love. That gift has more value than every other thing you might provide me. Thank you.
The idea for the grieving letter is from Recovering From Losses In Life by H. Norman Wright, who got the idea from Bob Deits, who wrote Life After Loss.
I’ve shared this story before, but for those who don’t know, when I was younger it wasn’t a requirement to attend kindergarten. Because of that, my first classroom experience was first grade. I loved my teacher, I loved my school, I loved my entire first grade life. Well, most of it.Two weeks into the school year I was sent to the principal’s office. Now you have to understand, I was a well behaved kid back then. Really, I was. For me to be in trouble was a big deal. My dad was a Drill Sergeant at that time in the military so I knew not to misbehave, and if I did misbehave…well, let’s just say it would be better for me to pack my bags and go live in the treehouse.