Forest Bathing: Improving your mental health, naturally

Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku in Japanese, is a mindfulness activity that involves walking in a forest. As you journey through nature, you take in the sights, sounds and smells of the environment around you. It is an activity that can bring you relaxation and time to reflect and unwind from everyday life in a peaceful environment.

Shinrin-yoku comes from Japan and was initially created in response to a national health crisis in the 1980s. Many Japanese people were experiencing health issues that were related to an increase in stress-related illnesses. As a response, leaders created different walking trails in forests and encouraged people to take walks on said trails, allowing people to momentarily be away from their industrial, city environment. Research done after the creation of this project showed that there were different benefits to forest bathing, including improved attention, more positive moods, and even an increase in immunity.

Research today continues to highlight the various benefits of forest bathing. In 2019, The Forest Bathing Institute, with scientists from the University of Derby, conducted the first scientific study on forest bathing in the UK. Their findings demonstrated that the activity of shinrin-yoku showed improvements in “positive emotions, mood disturbance, rumination, nature connection and compassion”. It also demonstrated an increase in heart rate variability, meaning improvements in cardiovascular health.

A study conducted by Dr. Qing Li, a medical doctor and researcher, demonstrated that people who participated in forest bathing had decreased anxiety and had better quality and length of sleep. Interestingly, they noticed that afternoon walks had more benefits than morning walks. Another Japanese study conducted by researchers from Chiba University and the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute found that the oils released from trees have antimicrobial properties that can affect not only immunity, but also help with depression, blood pressure, and anxiety.

Want to participate in forest bathing but don’t live near a forest? That’s okay, you can still take advantage of all these benefits simply by walking in nature (not just in a forest). In a UK study, participants showed increased self-reported health and well-being by spending at least 120 minutes outside in nature per week. This includes the many parks that we have here in Montreal—make a point of exploring one soon!

If you are interested in guided shinrin-yoku activities in Quebec, visit the calendar of events on the Shinrin-Yoku Quebec website, or visit

–Gabrielle Lesage
From Share&Care Summer 2024

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