Shinrin-Yoku

Shinrin-yoku

Shinrin-yoku roughly translates from Japanese as ‘forest air breathing/bathing’. It involves immersing oneself in a natural, forest environment and engaging in mindful practice.

While there is no set criteria for shinrin-yoku engagement, through synthesising research from numerous resources, some suggested activities are provided below:

First 10 minutes: Walking in silence while just focusing on breathing naturally. This helps to calm the mind, settle thoughts, and orientate to the time in the forest environment. Focus on how you are moving, the way your feet traverse the terrain, how your muscles work in unison.

Mindful exercise 1: Focus on mindful breathing. As you breathe in, say in your mind the word, ‘calm’. As you breathe out, say in your mind the word, ‘relax’. Repeat this at least nine times. As you breathe in, be aware of what you can smell.

Next 10 minutes: Continue to walk in silence, again focusing on breathing. Focus your attention on the path, bushes, trees, leaves, what you can see in the distance, what you can see close up.

Mindful exercise 2: Open awareness. Stop and focus on one tree, the shape, the way the branches lead to the trunk, the texture of the bark, the shape of the leaves, the detail of one leaf. Expand your perspective to how that tree sits among many others. Be aware of what thoughts, images, impressions, feelings, come to mind.

Next 10 minutes: Continue to walk in silence, again focusing on your breathing. Focus your attention on what you can hearing: the wind gentling rustling through the leaves, birdsong, scuttling in the bushes, and so forth.

Mindful exercise 3: Pebble meditation (see the script below).

Next 10 minutes: Continue to walk in silence, focusing on your breathing. Just ‘be’ in the moment. Send compassionate, or loving kindness thoughts, to others you know, perhaps someone you have passed, to a pet or other animals, then expand this to a wider concept of humanity.


The Pebble Meditation

(Adapted from Collard, 2014:38-39)

Close your eyes gently… Settle yourself in your chair… Focus on your breathing…as you breathe in, say in your mind the word ‘calm’…As you breathe out, say in your mind the word ‘relax’…Continue to breathe naturally, as you breathe in, ‘calm’…as you breathe out, ‘relax’.

[Allow about a minute for the person to focus on their breathing.]

Imagine being at the edge of a beautiful pond… The sun is shining and you can see some of its rays reflected in the water… There are water lilies, and blue and green dragonflies circling… Maybe you hear a frog croaking… Perhaps you can hear the rustling of leaves gently blowing in the wind… Can you feel the gentle breeze on your skin?… Allow yourself to visualise this pond in all its glory and add any image or sound to the picture that you create in your imagination.

Now see yourself picking up a small, flat pebble…Take the pebble in your hand. Feel the texture…is it smooth, rough…is it cold, or is it warming up within your hands. How did the pebble get to be where it is?

Imagine throwing the pebble gently into the water… See the concentric ripples dancing on the surface from where the pebble entered the water… Watch the pebble sink a little…Notice what thoughts, feelings and sensations you are experiencing right now… Allow the pebble to sink deeper and see whether any sensations, images or feelings change.

Let the pebble settle at the bottom of the pond. You may even be able to see where it has settled…What do you feel, sense, or think now? …Are there any messages arising from your consciousness that you need to hear or bring to your awareness?

Stay a little longer and just breathe, from moment to moment… taking care of the here and now.

Collard, P. (2014). The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace. London: Gaia Books.


Buckler, S. and Woodward, A. (2021). Development and validation of a plateau experience psychometric to investigate the effect of shinrin-yoku (森 林 浴) on depression. Transpersonal Psychology Review, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp.66-77.