Photo: I took this at the Bamboo Forest in China back in April of this year
Forest bathing is a real thing. I swear. In fact, it’s derives from the Japanese term “shinrin-yoku,” which is essentially the practice of appreciating the world around you.
Before I even remotely pretend like I’ve always known that, I need to give props to the mind behind it all.
I first learned of this concept thanks to Dr. Qing Li, an expert in forest medicine, by way of an article in Real Simple Magazine. Dr. Li explains his take on “Forest Bathing” in his latest book, “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness.”
The philosophy posits that human beings intrinsically desire to be amongst the trees. Maybe it’s in our DNA from generations upon generations of ancestors growing up in villages or tribes, long before the days of towns or cities (and especially high rises). Or maybe there’s just a natural element of calmness to the serenity of a forest.
Nevertheless, the idea of “bathing” in nature is believed to have a positive influence on our lives, not just in the general sense of longevity, but also in terms of reducing blood pressure, hypertension, and stress.
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to enjoy a day at a bamboo forest in China. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before, and I immediately understood how some of the greatest Chinese writers and philosophers could be inspired by the serenity of being amongst the trees. (I’ve shared a picture above).
Outside of one or two camping trips years ago, that was the first time I’ve ever had the ability to sit in a forest all day. I mean, it sounds like a nice idea, and if you’re genuinely interested I’m down for building tree forts and putting up signs labeled “No Strangers Allowed,” but it’s just not practical in our day-to-day lives.
Apparently, we can get the benefits of a forest by just adding some greenery to our homes.
Dr. Li explains the benefits of plants and their natural abilities to absorb toxins. His Top 10 purifying plants include the Peace Lily, Golden Pothos, English Ivy, Chrysanthemum, Gerbera Daisy, Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, Bamboo Palm, Azalea, Red-Edge Dracaena, and the Spider Plant.
Not only do physical plants helps with this effect, but plug-in scents and aromatherapies may also provide some benefits. Woodsy scents like rosemary, cedar, eucalyptus and pine can add that extra forest element to your home.
Sadly, the average person spends the vast majority of their days indoors. Between commuting to work, sitting in an office, commuting home, and then settling down for the night, the opportunity to outright enjoy nature is limited. Heck, even people who exercise regularly do so in a gym, indoors.
We may never be able to enjoy the full day-to-day benefits of forest bathing, but a few additions to your home may bring you closer than others.