“Forest Bathing” in Hong Kong: How Shinrin-Yoku Makes You Healthier and Happier
3 min read
It is absolutely normal to feel trapped, agitated or frustrated having stayed in the same place or the same city for a prolonged period of time. But what if there’s a way out?
Hong Kong forests have so much to offer for city dwellers in need of a break from the hustle and bustle. Embrace nature with us as we will walk you through shinrin-yoku and how it can help you.
What is Shinrin-Yoku?
Shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing, is a form of nature therapy that originated in Japan in the 80s. This Japanese therapeutic practice helps reduce our blood pressure, heart rates and stress, with its essence lying in returning to nature and spending time where we originally came from. We had lived in the natural environment for almost all of human existence, only until the past centuries did we begin to isolate ourselves from nature with an urban environment.
How does Shinrin-Yoku work?
You don’t have to travel to Japan to try shinrin-yoku. The key to this practice is immersing our senses in nature to enhance our mental well-being. Beyond a myriad of physical benefits, being in nature helps us reflect and expand our perspectives. This opportunity for quiet reflection engages us in learning more about ourselves and our interpersonal relationships with others.
Different from the usual therapies, the focus of shinrin-yoku is more on our reflective abilities. The World Economic Forum reveals that throughout the excursion, participants get to engage in authentic sharing and deep listening with others, which helps in building self-confidence and self-awareness. By nurturing undivided attention and detailed observation, participants can develop empathic and self-care strategies which are beneficial in everyday life. In addition, developing supportive social relationships is conducive to promoting mental resilience and constructing a support system, much-needed in times of adversity.
Rather than treating mental disorders, shinrin-yoku focuses on the positive dimension of one’s mental well-being by requiring them to tune in to their body and be mindful. Studies have also shown that this ecotherapy can enhance creativity and problem-solving skills, thus promoting a better quality of life on the whole.
Learn from Shinrin-Yoku
Shinrin-yoku is not simply a hike or a forest walk. Usually led by an experienced guide, participants will be involved in various connections with nature by slowing themselves down, awakening their senses, and most importantly, opening up their hearts.
Tame your wandering mind, avoid your mind going astray to the crowds of people along the way, and put your attention on your self-awareness and self-reflection. You are the one initiating communication with the environment in shinrin-yoku, instead of giving the environment the power over your mental state.
Shinrin-yoku is neither a naturalist outing nor a field trip. Although you may see lots of beautiful trees, plants or even some wild animals along the way, shinrin-yoku is not about understanding their medicinal values. You can get to know the wildlife differently, though. By awakening your senses and opening your hearts, you can communicate with the wildlife by feeling their existence, their movement and your presence among them.
Note that although shinrin-yoku aims to support city dwellers to unwind and connect with nature and entails benefits on multiple dimensions including biological, personal, and relational, it is not a medical treatment, nor does it substitute professional healthcare.
Key takeaways and how to get started
If you wish to try out shinrin-yoku, below are how you can get started:
- Find a suitable location for the practice. Forests, country parks, urban green spaces and gardens are some places that you can connect with nature.
- Remove yourself from any distractions. Put aside your phones or other gadgets so that you can be fully present in the moment.
- Leave behind your goals or expectations. Let your body tell you where to go.
- Pause from time to time. Observe and focus on the sensations you feel when touching leaves or walking along the path.
- Find a comfortable place to sit down. Listen to the sounds around you and feel their presence.
- Make sure your friends and you will not sidetrack and chat during the trip. However, feel free to share your experiences and feelings with one another. The sharing may help you gain a better understanding and experience in shinrin-yoku.
Useful guides for Shinrin-Yoku
We know it is difficult to take the first step to unplug and disconnect from the digital, outside world and stray into nature. Scroll down to check out a few of the guiding services available in Hong Kong.
Shinrin-yoku enables communication with nature but it is not about giving control to the environment to affect your mood. Participants create connections with nature by slowing themselves down, awakening their senses, and most importantly, opening their hearts up.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.