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Shinrin Yoku – Why we must disconnect to connect

Upasana Sharma
@Upasana-Sharma

11th May 2024 | 4 Views

Disclaimer from Creator: Disclaimer - The views described herein by the author are personal and should not be treated as a substitute for a medical advice. Always consult a medical health practitioner first if you have any underlying health conditions before embarking on a forest sojourn.

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And Into the Woods I go, To Lose My Mind and Find My Soul.

-John Muir 

We all have heard this famous quote, haven’t we? But what is the core message that lies underneath? For the unversed, it hints at finding one’s true essence or the soul in the middle of a forest. To establish a baseline for the premise of my story, let’s just all agree with the fact that almost all monks from any religion undertake a spiritual journey to the mountains, forests etc for a stretched period of time. Why? Because apparently, travelling to a far off place, devoid of any external noise or disturbance human or otherwise, allows one to get in touch with one’s own thoughts and reality. 

Once you are willing to take that journey, you will be surprised by how well you start to get to know yourself better. You will find parts of you that you had no idea existed. In a way, you are forced to spend time with yourself alone. What you discover after that is truly mind boggling. 

You discover your strengths when you navigate the uncertainties of the unfamiliar territory alone. You also discover your limitations as a human being, sometimes overcoming the obstacles along the way and evolving throughout journey. You face your shadows, parts of you that may not be very pleasant to deal with. You are forced to become humble, for nature is a bigger and larger entity than yourself. 

Forest meditations have long been practised in different cultures. Shamans call it the “forest medicine”, where a person is asked to spend some time walking or wandering in forests as a potential cure to his/her specific illness. What makes this practice truly special is that the Japanese also swear by this philosophy and follow it religiously. Let’s find out what are the potential benefits of a forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, as the Japanese so lovingly call it. 

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Potential Benefits of Forest Bathing

  1. Lungs Purification
    When you are continually exposed to harsh environmental toxins and pollutants for an extended period of time, the capacity of your lungs get reduced since it’s having to work harder than usual in a city environment to get your oxygenated. On the contrary, when you take a mindful break from the city environs and go visit a forest or a countryside, you place yourself in a position to gain fresh clean air, which is extremely good for your lungs. Thereby, letting uninterrupted flow of oxygen to your cells. 
  2. Antidote to Stress and Anxiety
    We are surrounded by stressors in our daily life – work deadlines, that nosy boss, that toxic colleague, a snoopy neighbour, unobedient child, and the list is endless. How wonderful would that be if we are able to shut all of this external noise and stressors for a while and just head over to our peaceful sanctuary alone to replenish our energies at once. Studies have established a correlation of a lowered blood pressure in patients who have practiced shinrin yoku for a while. Their heart beats at a relaxed pace as compared to those who do not practice forest bathing. It also helps in regulating the stress hormone cortisol, allowing feelings of calm and safety to wash over you.
  3. Stimulates Parasympathetic Nervous System
    The PNS which is responsible for regulating responses of fight/flight/freeze in mammals is also positively influenced as a direct result of forest bathing. When we expose ourselves to a calmer, serene environs , our body reacts to this by shutting down excessive firing of the neurons to the brain signalling that we are indeed in a safer space and therefore, we can lower our guards so to speak. This stimulation of the sensory nerves allows us to feel at peace and not agitated. It is difficult to feel anxious in a safe and peaceful environment sans stressors. 
  4. Enhances Mood and Catapults Clarity
    Out of mind is out of sight, who agrees with me on this? Okay, so it has been shown in relevant studies that spending time outdoors automatically uplifts our moods and lowers the feelings of depression or overwhelm. Spending time in greenery, or in sunlight evokes feelings of serenity and increasing the feel-good hormones in the body. Not many people are aware, but as a certified shamanic healing practitioner, people who come to me with anxiety or mood-swings troubles, are prescribed one week of a countryside, forest or a village getaway depending upon whichever is easily accessible to their location. We healers believe in mother nature as a great healing power, there is nothing that she cannot provide. Lay down your worries in her lap and see the magic unfold. People who return from these outdoor trips confirm feeling relaxed and free, not to mention, evolved. Next time you face any confusions, try giving forest bathing a try, and thank me later!
  5. Amplifies Our Senses
    We seem to function on a strict 9-5 clock catering to our individual work needs, and shutting off our sensory powers temporarily. Enter Shinrin-Yoku. The forest Bathing seems to indulge all of our senses at once. When you walk through the lush green meadows and cascading waterfalls, your eyes are delighted. When you smell the fresh pine and oak trees around, your sense of smell is heightened. When you hear only your footsteps and the soothing sounds of birds around you, your sense of sound is heightened, When you get to touch and admire the new flowers, or take a dip in the forest lake or pond, you feel rejuvenated. Need I say more? 
  6. Immunity is improved
    This is no secret that lowering stress automatically improves your immune response to the pathogens  and therefore your cells can better handle the bad guys – read bad gut bacteria 🙂
  7. Sleep Cycle is Greatly Improved
    When your body senses that it is in a safe environment and there is no direct threat lurking around ( except the lions and other grizzlies hehe), the parasympathetic nervous starts to relax and doesn’t have to work in overdrive. Therefore, by inducing a relaxed state of mind, your body adapts faster to the natural sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. A deep state of relaxation is guaranteed after you return from your forest bathing sojourn. 

We can go on and on discussing about the incredible benefits of the forest bathing, but let’s leave somethings to our imaginations and find out what worked for you? I invite you to consider giving shinrin yoku a try and let me know, if it brought about any change in your life – physical, mental, emotional or may be spiritual. Looking forward to hear your take and stories in the comments. 

#Spirituality #Alternative Medicine #Healing #Japanese Philosophy #Shamanism



Upasana Sharma

@Upasana-Sharma

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