Adventures, On Mental Health

“Shinrin Yoku” – Forest Bathing

I miss the woods.

I got terrible poison ivy again this summer with zero exposure. Like…It was bad and I have no idea where it came from. I’m highly allergic, that’s why I avoid the woods in the warm weather, but jeezus I usually have at least seen if I suddenly am oozing from giant swatches of skin. Several years ago I saw it on a tree off the in-town path of a run we did in the summer and when I got poison ivy a few weeks later and told everyone from what run it was on, no one believed me that there was poison ivy there. I was so mad I went out and took pictures and they said, “But that’s like 2 feet off the path!” and I’m like: I KNOW! THAT’S HOW ALLERGIC I AM AND NOW I AM GOING TO GET IT AGAIN JUST TRYING TO PROVE TO YOU PEOPLE THAT I KNOW WHAT POISON IVY LOOKS LIKE.

But this summer? Nope. Nada. Haven’t been anywhere where I’ve seen it and it makes me SO MAD that I got it anyway.

So obviously I’ve been staying VERY FAR AWAY from the woods. But man, I miss my Forest Bathing.

Shinrin Yoku means “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere.” In 1982, the Forest Agency proposed Shrinrin Yoku as a different type of therapy which quickly took as picnicking under the cherry blossoms in April and March is a country wide pastime. Shinrin Yoku Forest Therapy combines leisurely walks underneath a forest canopy and focused meditation on capturing a deep connection with nature for mentoring.

The Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences in Japan concluded that forest environments lower concentrations of cortisol, reduce blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity compared to city environments.

Additionally, forest bathing significantly reduces hostility and depression.

We bought this house because it is like .25 miles from a trailhead to our local Land Trust. I spent months training on those trails at the peak of my running career but even when I stopped running 50 miles a week I still hiked a lot…BUT ONLY IN THE COLD/COOL WEATHER. Not in the warm weather where poison ivy hides in every corner.

I can’t wait to get back to the woods. The mornings here are showing signs of cooling which means I may start heading out again and just being REALLY careful and coming home immediately and scrubbing my body with dish soap. (Any soap designed to break up cooking oil off dishes is adequate to break up the urushiol from the plant off your body.) I need my meditative time in the woods to get my forest bath on.

I also need to test out my ankle which is STILL SWOLLEN 5 weeks after the sprain but I guess this sometimes happen in old bodies that don’t heal as fast? UGGG. It doesn’t hurt to walk on though, it’s mainly external pain so I’m looking forward to testing it out on small hikes.

Here’s to getting back out amongst the trees and cleansing my soul.

4 thoughts on ““Shinrin Yoku” – Forest Bathing”

  1. Maybe this helps? My husband also gets poison ivy a lot. While camping, he literally walked FACE FIRST into a dangling vine/branch of it. The fastest soap i could find was my Purity face soap by Philosophy. He didn’t get it AT ALL. So now, he uses both purity then dawn when washing up suspected poison ivy (which works when he knows, but lots of times he didn’t see it and got exposed, even still)

  2. Ugh…my nephew has the same intense reaction to poison ivy. I’ve seen firsthand how bad it is.
    A brief thought on the mystery exposure…perhaps Zoomie got some on his fur during a run with Donnie and the oil rubbed off on you when they got back?
    Sending thoughts of cooler weather and poison oak free trails your way!

  3. I miss the weekly hikes on Cedar Gap Mountain I took with Tammy the Dog. Unfortunately a little over a year ago she was no longer able to manage them, and after that our walks were limited to around our house until she passed.

    Here, though–if it helps–is a minute of half of a morning mountain walk, accompanied by Tammy and the wood thrushes.

  4. I also get terrible possible ivy. Sometimes, it’s a secondary exposure. Someone in my family will touch it and not really, then touch me or something in the house and I get it. They’re very careful too since we realized.

    Also, thinking of it like engine grease rather than cooking oil helped me realize how hard it is to wash off. There are some YouTube videos about how the key is scrubbing with a rough cloth and good soap. At least one shows using black grease to demonstrate how much is left behind with regular washing. It’s helped me.

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