Forest Therapy and Recreation
‘Forest Therapy’ which is developed form Shinrin-Yoku, ‘Forest Bathing’, or ‘Eco-therapy’, originated in Japan in the 1980s. The idea of forest therapy involves visiting the natural forest area and doing some relaxing activities such as sitting, listening to the sound of nature, and using all the senses to feel and enjoy nature. An important aspect of forest therapy that different from Forest Bathing is its use as a kind of therapy to relieve stress and deal with other stress-related diseases. There have been many studies supporting the positive effects of forest therapy in treating diseases such as reducing depressive tendencies, increasing sleep quality, decreasing blood pressure, and so on.
There are four main types of health factors of the forest, first is negative oxygen ions, and ion wave. Negative ions, or anions, are atoms with one or more extra electrons, they are created in nature by the effects of water, air, sunlight and the Earth’s inherent radiation or artificially. Negative ions can improve sleep quality, accelerate cell regeneration, enhance memory and have a positive effect on mood. But the anion effect is only beneficial if the concentration exceeds a certain level. Studies have shown that when the concentration of negative ions per cubic centimetre (NI/cc) exceeds 1000, it is beneficial to human health; It boosts immunity when it exceeds 5000NI/cc and natural treatment of chronic diseases can be enhanced when more than 100000NI/cc. In urban areas, the concentration of negative oxygen ions is usually between 200 and 300, the concentration in parks can reach 400 to 1,000, and the number of green areas in the suburbs can reach 1000 to 5000, while the concentration around large waterfalls can reach 10,000 to 20,000.
Second is sound, light, natural environment and landscape, follow by that the concentration of the pollutant PM2.5(10) decreased significantly in areas with good vegetation. Many studies have shown that exercising in the forest and sitting and looking at trees can lower blood pressure as well as the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Studies of similar activities in urban no man’s land have shown no reduction in stress-related effects. Using an emotional state profile test, the researchers found that the forest therapy trip significantly reduced scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue. And because stress suppresses the immune system, the stress-reducing benefits of forests are amplified.
The last one is aromatic hydrocarbons and plant bactericides produced by forests. When we breathe fresh air, we breathe phytoncide, an airborne chemical released by plants that protect us from insects. Phytoncide has certain antibacterial and antifungal properties and can help plants resist diseases. When people breathe these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of white blood cells called natural killer cells(NK). These cells kill cells in our bodies that are infected with tumours and viruses. In a study, a three-day, 2-night forest therapy trip increased NK activity for more than 30 days. Japanese researchers are now studying whether forest therapy can help prevent certain types of cancer
Many activities can be included in the forest therapy, such as outdoor nature education to know forest resources and forest ecosystem, aiming at satisfying the desire for knowledge and improving spiritual and cultural needs. Various forms, including parent-child education, summer camp or study trip, extracurricular practice, popular science education or academic investigation, etc. Various experience activities related to health preservation, including forest bathing, yoga, meditation, zazen, tai chi, food therapy, spa bathing, and essential oil blending, etc. Forest therapy is a kind of treatment that depends on forest climate to improve people’s physical and mental health. In the forest environment to use the five senses, which are sight, smell, touch, sound to feel the natural surrounding. This kind of therapy appropriate to all seasons and can divide into “sit bath” “sleep bath” static therapy, and “walk bath” “motion bath” motional therapy, and other activities like forest bathing, outdoor yoga, forest bicycle rides. This kind of treatment can promote the metabolism of the human body, enhance resistance, eliminate nervous tension and visual fatigue, to people with hypertension, weak nerve, respiratory diseases, have an auxiliary treatment effect
A forest bathing and forest walking aim to breath fresh air in a forest, forest yoga is also a part of forest bathing, with a beautiful form of expression. Poorly oxygenated, dirty air can cause respiratory problems and can burden the heart. The air in the forest is clean, moist and oxygenated. The volatile substance that certain trees send out has many benefits, which can stimulate the cerebral cortex, eliminate nervous tension and so on. Some trees, such as pine, cypress, lemon and eucalyptus, can also secrete substances that can kill bacterias. In addition, some schoolers suggest that the negative oxygen ion is beneficial to human body health, the concentration in the forest is much higher than the indoor and urban area. In the morning, the sunlight is abundant, the forest has a high concentration of oxygen and less dust, it is a good opportunity for forest therapy.
Forest hot spring therapy is a kind of therapy that combines forest environment and relies on hot spring resources. In the dense forest, bathing in natural hot springs, closing eyes for a short rest, release fatigue and refreshing; A long forest hot spring therapy help the mineral in water to precipitate on the skin, to balance the skin pH, to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, endocrine and immune system. This kind of therapy is helpful to alleviate fatigue, accelerate human body metabolism, have a positive effect on various skin diseases, arthritis and nerve, digestive and other respect diseases.
Aromatherapy and herb garden, in which participators can pick aromatic plants to distill essential oils. And qualified aromatherapist will help to blend essential oils and gives suggestions based on the physical condition of the participators. Besides, that knowledge can be beneficial for a long time after the activity.
Forest food therapy is a kind of therapy based on the principle of “forest products + healthy diet”. It makes reasonable use of plant resources in the forest and then formulates a healthy diet according to the special medicinal value of different plants and the principle of a healthy diet. This method is suitable for the urban sub-healthy population to improve poor eating habits. Also according to the local characteristics, the therapist will use specialty food and green pollution-free food which is more delicious.
Forest nature education enables children to get close to nature and the forest, to observe and explore nature directly, also to feel the beauty and mystery of nature. In this way, children’s curiosity about the natural world and the things around them can be stimulated, and children’s positive emotion of getting close to nature and caring about the living environment can be cultivated. Besides, it helps children to solve a range of psychological and interpersonal problems. Furthermore, the forest summer camp is through the outdoor survival skills learning to stimulate the children more wisdom and potential; By handicraft, open children’s senses and exercise their observation and imagination. It inspires children’s inner positive, aggressive, strong, optimistic, independent and self-guidance, and all of that will help their future growth.