Shinrin-yoku. No, it’s not a new type of sushi. It’s the practice of forest bathing. The Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku advocates leisurely walks on gentle paths under a living forest canopy for healing and preventive health benefits.
The idea is simple: If a person visits a natural area and walks among mature trees, meadows and streams with flowing water, the walks can be calming, rejuvenating and restorative. To quote the naturalist John Muir, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” The natural remedy is thought to be in the substances emitted by the trees.
Stress levels, blood pressure and pulse drop when forest bathing. We have always known this intuitively. That is why we feel an increased energy level and improvement in sleep after walks in nature. Some studies have proven that forest bathing benefits include improved mood and ability to focus, even in children with ADHD.
The healing way of Shinrin-yoku is important in an age when 80 percent of the U.S. population live in urban areas, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and the average American watches almost 3 hours of television daily, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Luckily we have a multitude of green spaces in Plano to practice Shinrin-yoku. According to Angela Kralik, an urban forester for the Plano Parks Department, we have about 1.6 million trees in Plano.
Angela suggested we start our forest bathing practice by visiting one of Plano’s oldest residents. Standing at approximately 90 feet tall and 16 feet, 33 inches in circumference, Plano’s Quincentennial Bur Oak tree is the largest and oldest tree in the city. Located in the southeastern section of Bob Woodruff Park, the giant is estimated to be more than 500 years old.
Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve is Plano’s largest park. At 800 acres, it has 3.5 miles of concrete trails and 5 miles of soft trails along Rowlett Creek. Oak Point is home to bur oak, cottonwood, American elm, cedar elm and pecan trees, among many others. In spring it is adorned with patches of bluebonnets and pink blooms of dogwoods, and in winter, beautiful peeled white barks of sycamore trees.
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in West Plano is a 200-acre park with hike and bike trails and stunning views of Blackland Prairie and Upland Forest. The cool shade and relatively open forest floor make the Upland Forest a pleasant area for forest bathing on hot days. A wide variety of trees including the majestic bur oak, cedar elm, red oak, spring flowering redbuds and dogwoods are found here, along with vines that climb the trees.
To achieve the benefits of Shinrin-Yoku, the moment has to be almost meditative. Walk quietly and listen to birds chirping, leaves crunching, streams flowing. Paying attention to the environment, one can hear an entire community of wildlife. Lucky for us Texans our winters are mild and summers are long!Plano Parks >
Visit this website to identify trees one may encounter while forest bathing:Texas A&M Forest Service >