Get Outside: Take A Bath

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

Leonard Cohen

No, not that kind of a bath. The Japanese kind- “Shinrin yoku,” or forest bathing. The movement originated in Japan as a response to the tech boom and burnout of the 80’s. While the idea of nature's healing powers is not new, it has gained renewed significance in today's world, where our addiction to screens and binge-watching TV shows has confined us indoors for over 90% of our time. Now, more than ever, we need to get out and bathe.

Back in the 1800s, doctors in Germany and New York set up sanatoriums in pine forests to help people with tuberculosis, and found that the forest air made people feel better. They wondered if the pine trees were releasing something with healing powers.

Aharon Appelfeld’s painful novel, “Badenheim, 1939,” portrays the spa culture of European Jews enjoying their holiday until the impending forces of Naziism erode their spiritual and social worlds, turning their forest respites into prisons.

Japanese studies have shown that forest bathing has positive benefits on sleep quality, mood, stress levels, and the ability to focus. Chronic stress can affect our immune system, making it reasonable to think that a routine that includes twenty minutes of forest bathing each day can have mental and physical health benefits.

Dr. Qing Li, professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and the president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine says his research shows that many of the benefits of forest bathing come when we inhale the phytoncides that trees release into the air. They can reduce our stress hormones and increase our levels of anti-cancer proteins. 

Research from the Global Wellness Institute found that forest environments promote lower pulse rates, blood pressure, and concentrations of cortisol. They also increase greater parasympathetic nerve activity and reduce sympathetic nerve activity more than a city environment and have been shown to lower blood pressure.

Fortunately, 53% of Tennessee is forested, and Nashville offers numerous green spaces and greenways where you can experience the benefits of a mindful walk in the woods. Consider exploring the grounds of the GJCC, which feature forested areas along its almost one-mile perimeter. See you out there!


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