How relaxed time in nature benefits our health

by Moshe Sherman, Medical Qigong Therapist, Cloud Gate Pittsburgh

Life is beautiful when we truly feel we are in connection! Our modern life, as flashy as it may seem, often disconnects us from this beautiful planet we inhabit and from the bodies we are here to enjoy. We all have effective strategies for mitigating stress, from dietary shifts, to exercise routines, to meditation and counseling. A technique both ancient and novel that supports our ability to manage and lessen stress, shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), has come to the fore, being claimed, researched and refined in Japan.

In the 1980s, in conjunction with the increased use of technology in our daily lives, physicians in Japan began to study the health impact of spending relaxed time in a forest environment. The premise is that, in order to heal from the increased stress of living in a modern urban environment, we need to spend quality time in nature for balance.

For those of us who enjoy spending time in natural habitats, this theory makes perfect sense. Whether we enjoy hiking, biking, walking, camping or picnicking in a forest, we often find that we feel better once we get into a habitat where plant and animal life dominates the landscape.

Appreciating the healing benefits of nature has long been intuitive, and it is well documented in ancient healing practices, poetry, and art. Physicians in Japan decided to document and research these impacts in the language of modern science. They found a decrease in stress hormones (including cortisol and adrenaline) and lower blood pressure as results of forest bathing. Reducing our internal baselines of stress creates a ripple effect through our lives.

While Japan has been a leader in technological advancement, they have also maintained a deep respect and reverence for natural habitats, incorporating these spaces, the living creatures within them, and the spiritual entities of the forest into their culture, religions, and world views. In some ways, Japan is the perfect laboratory for this research to occur — for in a relatively small area, we find the most densely populated cities in the world with some of the most technologically advanced infrastructure, alongside some of the most pristine and protected natural habitats on the planet.

As we navigate our own unique health challenges, how can we benefit from relaxed time in nature? How do we practice forest bathing? Why does nature boost our health, and how? If you’d like to explore these questions further, please join me for a lecture on Wednesday, April 1 at 6:30 PM at the East End Food Co-op. Learn how you can integrate simple practices to reduce stress, while simultaneously boosting your immune system! RSVP for this free class here.

Moshe Sherman is co-owner at Cloud Gate Pittsburgh. He regularly leads forest-bathing excursions in Pittsburgh Public Parks. As a Medical Qigong Therapist, he provides energy-healing sessions for individuals and couples, and he teaches Qigong. Catch him in the forest, at his studio in Edgewood, in the community, online at, or on Facebook (cloudgatepgh).