UNPLUGGED: Shinrin Yoku, The Forest Is Your Medicine


IT TOOK 30 YEARS ON THIS PLANET TO REALIZE THAT NATURE IS MY MEDICINE. No matter how intense and stressful the work week gets, all it takes is a few hours in the forest to clear my mind and nurse my aching body back to life. This isn’t a new concept, by any means. Many ancient cultures have forged a deep and intimate relationship with nature. They knew then, what we have forgotten: nature is our connection to the universe – and to ourselves.  A recent Outside Magazine article on Japan’s emerging “shinrin-yoku” culture got me thinking…just how can we add more “forest bathing” into our lives?

The concept of shinrin-yoku has been around since the early 1980s in Japan; developed for the purpose of stress management and relaxation. Other than going for a serene hike in designated Forest Therapy sites throughout the country, the practice also includes breathing in organic compounds, derived from trees.  Japanese scientists are leading the way when it comes to connecting the positive effects of experience nature on your brain.

But, look further back into the rich cultures of indigenous peoples across the globe and you will see a deep and powerful connection to nature. Closer to home, our own First Nations people have spent thousands of years in harmony with the flora and fauna of our beautiful province. It’s interesting, therefore, that the majority of us live, work, and play in urban centres with little green space and too much concrete.

Living in Vancouver, we are especially lucky to be surrounded by the North Shore mountains and the Pacific ocean. Embarking on our own shinrin-yoku is as easy as setting our mind to it and making it happen.

So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, try heading over to one of the year-round hiking trails, such as the Baden Powell Trail.

Turn your phone off, put on your hiking shoes and explore the little things we take for granted: the soothing sound of creeks and streams; the fresh mountain scent of evergreens; the vibrant green flora of our temperate rain forest; and the pitter-pattering of raindrops on your jacket. Most importantly: just be. Nature will take care of the rest.

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