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Shinrin-Yoku is a term that was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982, and translates as “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere.”

It refers to the practice of spending time in a forest or natural environment and immersing oneself in its sights, sounds, smells, and textures to promote physical and mental health.

Shinrin-Yoku is based on the idea that humans have an innate connection to nature, and that spending time in natural environments can have a therapeutic effect on the mind and body. Studies have shown that forest bathing can reduce stress, improve mood, boost the immune system, and lower blood pressure and heart rate.

The practice of Shinrin-Yoku involves slowing down, being mindful, and engaging with the natural world through all the senses. It can involve activities such as walking, sitting, or lying down in a forest, and may include meditation, breathing exercises, and other mindfulness practices.

Given the frantic pace of today’s hyperconnected world and the rising amount of stress and anxiety since the pandemic, the public’s interest in nature connection practices like forest bathing, mindful hiking and ecotherapy has exploded in recent years.

The best way to start learning more about the art and science of nature connection practices is through documentaries. I’m a bit of a documentary geek so I’ve sought out the best documentary films on these topics and included one below.

1. The Secret Life of Trees

This fascinating nature documentary tells the story of how trees help maintain the life of the biosphere. Forests provide one of the world’s most significant sources of food, new medicines and even the oxygen we breathe.

2. Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees

Th is the best documentary I’ve ever seen on forest ecology. It was made by Canadian scientist and author Diana Beresford-Kroeger and in the film she explores our profound biological and spiritual connection with trees and the importance of rewilding forests for our survival as a species.

3. Shinrin-Yoku: The Art of Forest Bathing

Discover how the practice of forest bathing can change your life and heal both mental and physical problems. This documentary film covers the creative and health benefits of Shinrin-Yoku.

4. How Forests Heal People

An excellent short documentary by an organization called Healing Forests on how forests have the ability to heal us. This film raises awareness about the link between human beings and nature.

5. Forest Therapy: The Lore Company and Shinrin Yoku

Come on an adventure to Tujunga in the mountains near Los Angeles to take a walk and learn about Shinrin-Yoku forest therapy with forest therapy teachers Ben Page and Creative Director Sally Choi as they traverse the forest and mellow out in nature.

6. The Science of “Forest Bathing”

Learn about the science of forest bathing and how spending more time in forests can reduce your stress, improve your sleep, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and make you feel more connected to the awe-inspiring power of nature.

7. Windows To The Wild: Forest Bathing

PBS’ Windows to The Wild Guide Willem takes you a guided hike deep into the woods where he learns how to slow down and experience nature with all his senses.

8. Forest Bathing: Rooted in Science

A voyage of health and wellness as he explores the world of Shinrin-Yoku, the science of ecotherapy and  how forest bathing and nature therapy practices are being adopted in Canada.

9. Nature as Medicine: Prescribing the Outdoors

Not a documentary but an excellent presentation by Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver-based family physician and Director of PaRx/Park Prescriptions for the BC Parks Foundation. She explains the research that shows that kids and adults who spend more time in nature are happier and healthier.

10. Park Prescriptions Documentary

This short documentary examines the United States National Park Service’s Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP) initiative and how doctors are prescribing park or nature prescriptions to patients so they can improve their physical and mental health.

I hope you learn something new by watching some of these fascinating nature documentaries on the art and science of forest bathing and ecotherapy.

Kyle Pearce

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