Forest Therapy is a common remedy in countries like Japan and Korea for stress from a fast-paced lifestyle and different kinds of pollution. Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing as it is known in Japan is shown to provide many health benefits, including increased immunity from the inhalation of the essential wood oils from plants.
The idea is less about escaping from the urban jungle and more about connecting, and returning to a natural way of being. Many people now live in an artificial or otherwise depleted environment, bombarded by endless stimulus and information. Conventional work schedules mostly ignore natural rhythms and the body’s needs, whether it is working long hours past sunset, skipping lunch, or working night shifts. Technology, while bringing people afar close together, also changes the nature of human relationship and the relationship between nature and human.
Much of human existence has been in tune with the many different cycles and the natural environment. We looked to the lunar cycles to plant and harvest. We rose and retired with the rising and setting of the sun. We observed days off.
Urbanization on today’s scale is a relatively recent phenomena. The world’s tallest buildings now soar over 2000 feet above ground, disconnecting people from the earth’s beneficial radiation which research has shown is necessary for health.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Henry David Thoreau
Many researchers are interested in the relationship between emotions, behaviour, and the environment, with much written on the emotional health benefits of green spaces. In a study of the urban brain in outdoor activity, researchers used mobile EEG to observe participants who walked for 25 minutes in three types of urban environment in Edinburgh, Scotland. The results showed a lower level of frustration and engagement when inside the green space zone.
We regularly experience what this type of research finds when we spend time in the woods, the beach, out in the open sea. Nature is healing. Even a brief walk through an urban park helps us de-stress. It is more than the fresh air or having a break from work and responsibilities. The soundscape is soothing, with birdsongs, crickets, rustling of the leaves…The landscape is an undulation of gradations.
The question is how do we forest-bathe when there are no forests around?
Not every city has access to 400 gardens like Paris and it is not everywhere that people own mountainsides as in Norway. Many of us have access to nature reserves, open countryside, running trails through the forests, or maybe cross country ski runs in the summer. Just remembering running through the muddy grounds of the endowment lands in Vancouver brings a smile to my face and a sense of contentment.
Small-Scale Forest Bathing
Immersion is key. What about spending some quiet time leaning against a tree? Open up your senses and really take in the entire experience. Allow the variation of all the greens to flood your senses. What do you pick up on the wind? Do you hear any birds? Touch the bark of the tree and the grass beneath your bare feet.
Or try stretching out on the ground and look up at the canopy of trees. Enjoy the flight of bird high above.
Google new spaces in your city to visit or just explore on foot, wandering with no plan or agenda. Maybe there is some random hill that has been left alone. The importance of green spaces is increasingly being considered in urban planning and redevelopment.
Visit a Nursery
A walk through a nursery with all the different plants and flowers can be enough of a boost in between treks out to the woods. We don’t need forests for forest bathing, at least on a daily basis. Check out the Nature Pyramid for daily, weekly, monthly, and annual recommendations of forest bathing and other nature-based dietary suggestions.
The importance of natural environments, forests, and green spaces cannot be understated. They are essential to our well-being in so many ways and on so many levels that supporting conservation efforts is everyone’s responsibility.
#GetOutside and schedule in some forest bathing as often as possible. In Singapore, you can check out the reserves, parks, and the Southern Ridges, a 5+mile “trail” that links parks between HarbourFront and Kent Ridge Park. Enjoy vistas and views of the city and nature on the Forest Walk, raised high above the ground.