In 1990, Japanese researcher Yoshifumi Miyazaki began what has grown into over 30 years of research on the benefits of synchronizing with the forest. In Japan, there is a longstanding culture around connection with nature and seeing oneself as an equal being with the rest of the natural world. The research has articulated the concrete physical, emotional and psychological benefits of that nature connection.
Forest bathing, under the umbrella of forest therapy, gained national visibility in the U.S. around 2012. In the U.S. we tend to see nature more as a resource to use at our disposal or as a place to be “in” rather than “with”. The practice in the U.S. has therefore been adapted to include not only the sensory focus in Japan, but also relational aspects. It involves a shift in perspective from nature being a “thing”, to being in a harmonic relationship with all that exists in the natural world - trees, animals, Earth, and everything else, including ourselves. The first school for training forest bathing guides, The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT), was founded in 2012. Since then, many more schools and programs have emerged nationally and internationally, including The Forest Therapy School.
The experience of shinrin-yoku is fully immersive. While the term forest bathing can mistakenly conjure up images involving swim suits or birthday suits, the term I’ve chosen, forest immersion, captures the essence of being fully in the present moment with all your senses tuned in.
The Japanese Art of Shinrin-yoku by Yoshifumi Miyazak, the foremost researcher on forest bathing and creator of the term. The short and visually appealing book is a great introduction to the research and practices of forest bathing in Japan.
Your Guide to Forest Bathing by M. Amos Clifford, the founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and driving force behind the expansion of forest bathing in America.
Forest Bathing with your Dog by Nadine Mazzola, an ANFT certified guide based out of the Boston area.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, scientist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Not a book about forest bathing, but full of indigenous wisdom that has been drawn into the America form of forest bathing. A wonderful storyteller and orator, Robin's works are excellent in audio format.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has an excellent summary of the science at work behind the health benefits.
Interview with Yoshifumi Miyazaki
Article summarizing the health benefits of forest therapy by Harvard Health
Detailed review of shinrin-yoku research published by the National Library of Medicine
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