Knowledge that comes from Asia
Perhaps you have had a hectic week, five meetings in a row the same day, barely time to cook, and you have spent two hours a day commuting. To top it off, your neighbours have decided that it is a good time to reform the kitchen. Now think of a clearing in the middle of an oak and birch forest: the breeze caresses your face, you can feel the fresh, wet grass between your toes, and you smell the invigorating fragrance of wood emanating from the canopy. Almost nothing is heard, just the distant twittering of some birds and the soft crunch of the leaves swaying in the wind. Just imagining this environment already helps you reduce the stress and anxiety caused by the frenetic daily life.
In Japan, there is a term called shinrin-yoku or “forest baths”, also popular in neighboring countries like Korea. This technique consists of going to a natural area rich in vegetation and letting all your senses connect with the vegetation around you, and for years it has been recommended by doctors to alleviate the negative effects of urban life on people’s health. For just under five years, this way of taking advantage of our biological and psychological connection with nature has been introduced in Europe. In places like Scotland or Spain, some doctors are recommending walks to fight stress.
While it is well known that travelling to the countryside is good for your health, this recommendation was not among those prescribed by doctors for a long time. In contrast, in Japan, the authorities were able to connect the country’s Shinto tradition with the benefits of contact with nature. In the 1980s, as city populations and their stress levels grew in tandem, the Japan Forest Agency launched an initiative that became a huge success. Today, up to 5 million Japanese enjoy forest baths every year, including slow breathing exercises and relaxing walks in one of the many forests that cover the country. This drug-free treatment has proved to be very effective in treating the effects of anxiety in a population under high pressure in their daily lives.