This year marks 40 years since the term shinrin yoku (forest bathing) was first coined. It came about in response to a health crisis in Japan following a major cultural shift. Having been a country that lived with the land, the late 1970’s / early 1980’s brought the beginning of the tech boom and with it, mass urbanisation. Coinciding with this there was a huge spike in the number of people being diagnosed with certain cancers and auto-immune diseases. On hearing this, the Japanese government wanted to understand what the cause of the spike had been – and what in turn they could do to combat it.
They commissioned various pieces of research and looked at other studies. One looked at the health benefits of time spent in a forest environment and how being around trees can help boost our NK (natural killer) cell count – a special white blood cell that acts as our bodies first line of defence against some cancers and certain diseases. Putting two and two together, the then minister for Fisheries and Forestry in Japan devised a programme to encourage more people to get out of the cities and into the forests. That programme was called shinrin yoku 0r forest bathing.
One action, in this case, mass urbanisation and the associated disconnection from the land, caused the (negative) effect of a health crisis … which in turn caused the (positive) effect of encouraging people back on to the land.
We’re often too quick to look for something to ease the effect of something negative without looking at the cause and addressing that too. Whilst easing the immediate effects of something is important – we also need to look at the cause and do what we can to reduce or in some cases, eliminate it from our lives. It might be a case of changing career, moving house, or simply ensuring you drink enough water in the day. In some cases it’s bringing some mindfulness into your daily routine – a moment away from screens to focus on you and the here and now.
Invitation: consider the small tweaks you could make to your day to day life to bring about a positive change.
If you feel inclined to take this invitation – you’re welcome to comment below with what you are noticing.