It helps the soul, but also the body: walking immersed in the woods helps the immune system and reduces stress

The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku, in English Forest-bathing: it literally means bathing in the forest and is a wellness practice that exploits the therapeutic power of nature to improve our state of health and free us from stress and depression. In practice, a total immersion in the forest environment, for a nice walk and a relaxing break under the branches of the trees, has beneficial effects not only for combating tiredness and anxiety, but has the power to stimulate our system immune.

Forest bathing has been indicated by Spafinder Wellness, the most authoritative medium in the wellness industry worldwide, as one of the first emerging trends in the wellness sector. Experts swear that it is not just the relaxing power linked to being in the greenery, but a real cure that involves different systems of our organism. The foliage and wood of the trees, in fact, release essential oils and aromatic substances which have a beneficial effect by strengthening the immune system and promoting a lowering of blood pressure in hypertensive subjects.

“Forest bathing” has been widespread in Japan since the 1980s and is now considered one of the cornerstones of preventive medicine, so much so that it is routinely prescribed to many patients. Scholars have discovered that full immersion in forest vegetation causes notable improvements in some physiological parameters: the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, decrease, the heart rate decreases, as well as blood pressure and blood sugar levels decrease, the risk of falling ill with depression is reduced, states of anger subside , it even improves creativity. The credit goes to the better oxygenation that is obtained by walking in the woods, but also to the effect of monoterpenes, aromatic substances released by the leaves of the trees, and of phytoncides, essential oils present in the wood, which the trees release in volatile form to defend themselves from parasites .

To benefit from forest bathing you need to stay immersed in the woods for at least four hours, walking for at least 5 kilometres, alternating the walk with moments of rest and relaxation. For a real “bath” you also need to breathe deeply using the diaphragm as is done in yoga and absorbing all the aromas of the forest, abandon yourself to listening to the sounds and voices of the forest, contemplate all the different shades of green of the foliage, for a true immersion that involves all the senses. To stimulate touch, it is also good to touch the bark of trees, or even hug the trunk, trying to perceive its surface and absorb its energy. Naturally, in all of this, maximum attention must be paid not to damage the plant by breaking the twigs or damaging the fronds.

The ideal would be to repeat the “bath” for three consecutive days and take advantage of the period in which the trees are richest in leaves, i.e. late spring. The important thing is to choose a truly uncontaminated forest, perhaps in a protected nature reserve; Beech forests are very suitable for their biological properties. You can take a “bath” alone or in company: the important thing is to maintain concentration and not disturb the balance of the forest.