Shinrin Yoku – Forest Bathing for Stress reduction

Shinrin Yoku: Nature as a Place for Health – Stress Reduction through Forest Bathing


Stress is considered one of the biggest health threats of the 21st century. Many people suffer from stress-related mental illnesses like burnout and depression. To combat stress, there are various methods. One of them is Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing.

What is Shinrin Yoku?

Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, is a Japanese practice that means “bathing in the forest atmosphere” using all your senses. It involves short, immersive visits to the forest to reduce stress and improve well-being.

The Importance of Attention

Attention is our tool for consciously perceiving resources and external stimuli. It helps us focus on a limited number of things at a time. Neurologist Sabine Kastner notes that our attention fluctuates every 125 to 250 milliseconds. This limited capacity means we constantly need to choose what to focus on.

Understanding Stress

Stress is a physical and mental strain that negatively impacts health. According to Lazarus’s transactional model, stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between demands and our ability to meet them. Mindfulness, focusing on the present moment without judgment, helps reduce stress.

Benefits of Nature

Being in nature positively affects mood and concentration, providing a contrast to daily life and enabling relaxation. Natural environments help recover from emotional and cognitive exhaustion, promoting well-being and self-reflection.

Forest Bathing in Practice

Shinrin Yoku involves short visits to the forest, typically for two hours or a full day. The Japanese practice encourages relaxation in nature for mental and physical health. Forest bathing has been shown to lower heart rate and cortisol levels, indicating reduced stress.


The Science behind  Forest Bathing

Phytoncides are natural oils and volatile organic compounds emitted by trees and plants. These include substances like alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, limonene, and tannins. They play a crucial role in forest bathing by providing several health benefits:

  1. Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Effects:
    • Tannins, specifically, have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body and reduce inflammation, which is beneficial for overall health and immune function .
  2. Enhanced Immune Function:
    • A study conducted by Li et al. (2010) found that participants who spent time in forests showed increased activity of NK cells and a higher expression of anti-cancer proteins. This suggests that the forest environment, rich in phytoncides and tannins, directly contributes to strengthening the immune system .
  3. Cognitive and Psychological Benefits:
    • According to Kaplan and Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory, natural environments provide a setting for effortless attention, allowing the brain to recover from mental fatigue and improve cognitive function. The soothing smells of the forest play a role in this process by creating a calming and restorative environment .


The practice of forest bathing is more than just a pleasant walk in the woods. It involves a complex interaction between the human body and the natural chemicals emitted by trees, such as phytoncides and tannins. These compounds help reduce stress, boost the immune system, and improve overall well-being. The therapeutic effects of these natural scents underscore the importance of spending time in nature for maintaining good health.





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