Excellent news for nature lovers: the forest does us good and it is science that says it. Sylvotherapy or tree therapy is a recognized medical practice in Japan.
In the Japanese forests, there are therapeutic paths for travelers to take advantage of all the health effects of trees.
Here’s why one should take forest baths:
- It is an activity that involves spending time in the forest using all your senses to improve your health and reduce stress. Forest baths have always existed, but the term “shinrin yoku” was first used in 1982 as part of a Japanese national forest bath health program. At the time, there was no scientific evidence yet for the benefits. The idea was that if people were encouraged to go to the forest to take care of their health, they would also be more proneto protecting forests.
- In Japan, silvotherapy has become a medical practice. By practicing it, you don’t cure a disease, but you strengthen your immune system. Silvotherapy improves sleep quality, lowers stress hormones and improves blood pressure. After two nights in the forest, the activity of natural killer cells, those that help the body fight viruses or cancer cells, increase among all participants to a study on the practice. Their stress hormone cortisol levels had gone down while their average sleep time had gone up.
- One explanation is the presence of phytoncides in the air of the forest. This tree-produced molecule, commonly known as essential oil, has the ability to increase the number of killer cells and to lower stress hormones. By breathing in forest air, we take advantage of the benefits of these molecules. During these walks, the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down the body’s functions in order to conserve energy, is stimulated, while the sympathetic system which activates in the event of stress is attenuated. This rebalance our nervous system thus lowers the cortisol level.
- The most important thing is to activate your five senses. Listen to the birds singing, watch the shades of green from the trees, smell the scent of the forest and breathe the air through your mouth to inhale the phytoncides. You can even touch the trunk of the trees or lie on the ground. The important thing is to be fully present.
- Experiments have shown that three days and two nights in the forest can bring benefits from the effects on the immune system and make the positive effects last for a month. It would therefore be ideal to have one weekend a month. But if you can only go to a forestduring the day, you can practice for two hours once a week.