Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ is the Japanese medical practice of spending time in the forest. What the participant does is slowly walk through the woods -- usually at a rate that does not exceed three miles in four hours -- and relax. They may choose to mosey about, or sit down with a book, or just take in the scenery. No matter the decision, troubles from everyday life are not welcome.
Endorsed by the Forest Agency of Japan and recognized by the Japanese government, Shinrin-yoku participants have reported reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, and anger, while increasing energy levels. But what about scientifically supported health benefits?
A study took 280 subjects, around the age of 22, and had them walk around either a forest or a city area. Results from blood tests conducted at various intervals during the process indicated lower pulse rates and blood pressure, lower concentrations of cortisol, and increase nerve activity. Remember, this is not working out in a green place, this is just taking in and roaming about nature.
So what could this mean for you and your students? As we’ve written before (Planting the Seed: Garden-Based Learning in our Classrooms), getting children learning outside can increase standardized test scores, ecological awareness, and community involvement, and that’s just with specific activities done for a specific purpose. Imagine what relaxing in nature could do for our children. In fact, we don’t have to imagine. Studies have shown that connecting to nature can improve a child’s social skills, self-confidence, promote creativity, teach them responsibility, and reduce their stress levels.
Honestly, I can’t see a down side. If spending time outside in the greenery makes people feel better, and has science to back it up, isn’t it worth giving a try?