Forest Bathing — Finding Wellness in Nature

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“Ecotherapy movements” are sprouting across the United States that call for a renewed focus on natural forms of medicine long popular in Eastern cultures. One of the more interesting groups are practitioners of what’s known as “forest bathing,” which is based on a Japanese health philosophy known as “Shirin Yoku” — or “taking in the forest atmosphere.”

      Dr. Qing Li, a leading researcher in the field, has found that regular weekly baths in a forest creek help improve one’s auto-immune system while lowering both blood pressure and stress hormone levels. The key to this, he says, may lie in the natural bacteria produced by nearby trees to ward off insects and disease. As leaves fall into the water, beneficial arboreal microbes are taken in by the human bathers and often a cooling sense of calmness follows.

          So if someone asks if you’re interested in participating in an Ecotherapy Weekend, know that literally immersing yourself in nature may be on the agenda along with hiking, biking, meditating and healthy dining. Of course, health and wellness are relative terms whose definitions vary from individual to individual. So, if finding them through such natural, non-institutional practices brings you a sense of peace, then go for it!