First we had grounding, then we had plogging, now there’s another mind-to-earth connective activity that’ll help you achieve mindfulness while appreciating nature. Forest bathing has been a staple in Japanese culture, and it’s time that we take a note or two from its ever-reaching benefits.
The Japanese people have already taught us about portion control and its effect on weight loss, and they’ve shared their secrets to longevity and reaching our healthiest potential, and now we’re ready to take guidance from them on the mindfulness connection that we can gain from some efficient forest time.
As Dr. Qing Li notes in his new book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, has noted the power of trees and nature in creating happiness and overall health.
“Shinrin in Japanese means ‘forest.’ and yoku means ‘bath,'” Dr. Li explains. “So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.”
Just as exercise and a healthy diet are vital to our wellbeing and overall disease-free health, connecting and touching nature is of similar importance.
We can’t divorce our health from the health of the planet, Dr. Li notes in his book, and it’s this exact concept that is prevalent throughout Japanese culture and the health of the people. Just add that to the list of must-learn tricks we can learn on this side of the ocean.
But the beauty of forest bathing is that it requires no specific attire (you can rock your best athleisure or anything else you wish), it can be performed at any time of year, and has the same powerful benefits.
“This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging,” Dr. Li continues. “It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our sense of light, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.”
Because we tend to spend the most of our day indoors — most likely hunched over a desk with very little connection to the outside or any nature present — we miss the direct interaction that happens when we can smell, touch, and taste the fresh air that is just mere minutes away.
“Indoors, we tend to use only two senses, our eyes, and our ears,” he adds. “Outside is where we can smell the flowers, taste the fresh air, look at the changing colours of the trees, hear the birds singing and feel the breeze on our skin. And when we open up our senses, we begin to connect to the natural world.”
But if your nearest forest is a solid train ride away (New Yorkers, you know the struggle), there are ways you can bring nature to you.
Adding air-purifying plants to your home is just a start (and check out some of our favorites for city dwellers), but even simply opening up your windows and circulating fresh air into your space can start to do the trick. Take a wellness getaway (or one of these most affordable wellness retreats) if you need a more thorough break from the indoor life to truly feel the benefits of connecting with the beauty of the planet.