Forest bathing is gaining notoriety, but not everyone is in the know yet. Last week, when I told a friend about our new Forest Bathing Typewriter sign, her response was, "What do you mean. Do you romp around the forest naked?"
While that does sound kinda fun, I'm happy to report that forest bathing is, for most people, a fully clothed activity. The term was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in the 1980s. In Japan, it's called Shinrin-Yoku, which technically means bathing yourself in a forest atmosphere or absorbing the forest through your senses.
You might be happy to know that you don't have to be in shape. To successfully practice Shinrin-Yoku, you simply have to be in nature and use your sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch to connect with the world around you. It doesn't have to involve hiking, and unless it's a hot day, you're unlikely to sweat during a forest bath.
It's also mostly free. Just find a quiet place with a bunch of trees and turn off your phone. Observe the sounds, sights, textures, and smells. Stroll slowly with no destination in mind, touching everything as you go, or lie down and examine the sky through the canopy.
Just take your time and remind yourself that you don't have to be anywhere except where you are. Hold your attention in the present moment, and let your body be your guide. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet. Listen to the birds' songs and the rustle of leaves. Or, notice the quiet. Examine the varying shades of green and the shapes filtering sunlight casts on the soil.
The simple fact is that forest bathing makes humans feel good. Our bodies and minds respond positively to the sounds and scents of nature. Being in nature calms our busy brains and comforts our souls. It helps us relax, think clearly, benefits our mood, and builds our energy and vitality.
Simply put, whether we're in an ancient old-growth forest, in a neighborhood park, or in your own garden, being surrounded by trees is rejuvenating. It's a proven fact that spending time in nature is good for us. Scientific studies have demonstrated that spending time under a forest canopy reduces our blood pressure, lowers our cortisol levels, and improves our concentration and memory. It also reduces tension, anger, fatigue, depression, confusion, and anxiety. Further, a chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, boosts our immune system.
Most of us Canadians live in urban areas, and many of us spend more than 90% of our time indoors. This is not optimal because we, humans, are designed to be connected to the natural world.
I know how it feels to lose track of nature for long periods. We are makers and must frequently travel to sell our wares. We love it, and the people we meet on the road are exciting and energizing. However, ceaseless travel is hard, and I often return home to Saltspring Island feeling rundown and with frayed nerves.
We're lucky to live surrounded by forests, so when I get home from a long trip, the first thing I do is grab my sneakers and find a dirt trail, telling myself that unpacking and laundry can wait. I walk into the woods feeling washed out and frazzled and return feeling refreshed and grounded.
I've always known that spending time among the trees, rain or shine, is as essential to my health as brushing my teeth or eating vegetables. I never understood why until I discovered the theory of Forest Bathing.
So, I urge you to find some trees and spend some time among them. I promise you won't regret it.
If you want to take off your clothes, that is entirely up to you.
XO Suzanne, Co-Founder & Head Tea Drinker, Cedar Mountain Studios
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