Shinrin-Yoku

By , February 11, 2014

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.” —John Muir

Recently, we’ve been introduced to a concept that may explain why our family’s current lifestyle seems so healthy to us.

Shinrin-yoku, a term coined by the Japanese literally translates as “forest bathing.” It means spending time in the woods for its therapeutic (or bathing) effect.

While most people know, or can at least imagine the positive feelings evoked by time spent in the forest, scientific research has identified real, measurable health effects associated with the activity.

The forest: it's good for you! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The forest: it’s good for you! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Apparently, many trees release substances called phytoncides to protect against harmful insects and rot. Humans breathing in these phytoncides experience a range of surprising benefits, from fighting cancer to improved blood pressure and pulse rates, to improved mood and deeper friendships, to boosted immune system.

Well, yeah!

Before we moved here, Michelle would return to her Juneau job from weekend visits so refreshed that her coworkers called our land the Zeiger Wilderness Spa. We often speak of the decompression we feel hiking over the forested ridge. Michelle counts on the hike home to strip her of her workday’s tension. I feel the same affect after a day in town. If a few hours spent in the woods benefit a person, imagine what we must feel like sleeping and waking here day after day.

Over the years we’ve toyed with the idea of creating a bed & breakfast on the property. Should we ever go that route, we need to remember the Shinrin-yoku angle as an added inticement.

Related to this is a German word that Aly recently found. Waldeinsamkeit (which my friend Jody, a college German language professor, says is pronounced “Vahld-eye-n-sahm-kite”) means “the feeling of being alone in the woods.” Waldeinsamkeit is in my blog software’s spell check. How cool is that?

2 Responses to “Shinrin-Yoku”

  1. Linn Hartman says:

    Interesting that some cultures have a word to describe this feeling. Don’t know that English does. May be our English feeling of “manifest destiny” that we don’t need anything but own abilities to make us complete. I am of the opinion that our life style has dulled our senses to the point that we can’t relate or feel the things nature has to tell us. I think of a “vision quest”-if your not open to nature or spiritual things then you would probably not be open to receiving the benefits of the experience-just a thought

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    I agree with you totally, Linn. Our culture does have terms for this feeling–fear, distrust, disgust…. Remember that the “pilgrim fathers” saw the wilderness as the devil’s domain, a chaos that needed man to bring god’s order to it. GREAT attitude. Anyone who feels differently gets scorned as a “tree hugger.”

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