The Japanese Government has endorsed shinrin-yoku, translated as “forest bathing”, as a national health programme, prompting experts to ask if the practice could work for the British workforce.

Japanese workers are known for their dedication to work, but high levels of conscientiousness can come at a price — research has shown that approximately 60% of Japanese workers have strong feelings of anxiety, worry, and stress related to their job.

In response, for some time the Japanese Government has been using shinrin-yoku as a national health programme to boost mental wellbeing.

Forest bathing refers to the practice of slowing down and immersing yourself in the atmosphere of a forest, taking care to remain present or mindful during that time.

According to research, two hours of mindful exploration in a forest can reduce blood pressure, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and improve concentration and memory.

The researchers also found that trees release chemicals called phytoncides, which have an anti-microbial effect on human bodies, boosting immunity.

Top tips for busy workers trying some urban forest bathing

  1. Consider a stroll to your local park during your lunch hour.

  2. Turn off your electronic devices to give you some digital detox time.

  3. Slow down — forest bathing is not about exercise or hiking, it’s closer to meditation and mindfulness.

  4. Stay present — use all your five senses to stay connected to your natural surroundings. This is not the time to figure out how to deal with that tricky work issue. Focus on tasting your lunch as you eat; look at the trees and up at the colour of the sky; listen for birdsong; see if you can smell plants or perhaps rain in the air, or pick up a leaf and hold it to ground yourself.

  5. Breathe slowly. Take five slow breaths and, after a short time, repeat. This is a great way to relax and clear the mind.

Last reviewed 16 December 2019