A different kind of swim: Shinrin-yoku

Bamboo forest, Kyoto [oliveheartkimchi]

If we play a word association game and I say “bathing,” you might take that “bathing” and match it with suit, or sun, or tub, or swimming. It would surprise me a lot if you came up with “forest.”

Unless, of course, you’re Japanese, and are familiar with the practice of Shinrin-yoku* (森林浴), or “forest bathing.” Mandarin speakers call it sēnlínyù (森林浴), and Korean speakers sanlimyok (산림욕). I call it an excellent idea.

Forest bathing, as I understand it, is the practice of briefly immersing yourself in a forest (or in some other natural setting). It’s said to be effective in reducing stress and achieving other health benefits. The idea appeals to me greatly.

Apparently Shinrin-yoku has been part of the national health plan of Japan since the early 1980s. There’s a Wikipedia entry on Forest bathing, the reading of which might positively influence your health as well, inasmuch as puzzling over unusual grammatical constructions probably improves mental alertness. Having a good laugh over almost-English is probably stress-reducing, too.

If you have an opportunity to get out into a forest today, the sights, smells and sounds will undoubtedly do you good. If you’re stuck indoors right now, take a look at some interesting tree photos, courtesy of an Atlantic “Photo Appreciation of Trees” from last July. The collection was put together by Alan Taylor. Here’s a taste:


Tree tunnel, Kleven, Ukraine [Gleb Granich / Reuters]



A web-like tree trunk in Nanning, Guangxi, China [TPG / Getty]


A fig tree in Petit Canal, on the island of Guadeloupe [Nicolas Derne / AFP / Getty]


Dragon’s blood trees on Socotra Island, south of Yemen [Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi / Reuters]


A Grandidier’s baobab tree, Madagascar [Anthony Asael / Art in All of Us / Getty]


Children and bluebells in a beach forest in Marlborough, England [Toby Melville / Reuters]


Pine trees in flood water, Moorhead, Minnesota [Scott Olson / Getty]


A rope swing is a wonderful thing. Gruene, Texas [Eric Gay / AP]


Fall colors at Loch Faskally in Scotland [Jeff J Mitchell / Getty]

[Images: Wikipedia, an Atlantic Monthly collection here]



*I first heard about Shinrin-yoku in an Atlantic article, but apparently I didn’t save the link. When I went hunting for it, the first search result provided a nice bit of irony–a perfect example of why you’d need Shinrin-yoku in the first place:

Shinrin Yoku at Amazon – Low Prices on Shinrin Yoku. Free 2-Day Shipping w/ Amazon Prime.

 Let’s go for a walk in the forest, and not order anything from anywhere for a while.








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