Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku in Japanese, is essentially the act of being in the presence of trees. The therapeutic qualities of forests have been lauded as both a cure-all and a preventative measure in Japan since the 1980’s and “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness” offers Westerners insights into both the science and benefits of this free treatment.
Dr. Qing Li is one of the world’s leading experts in forest bathing and has been studying the effects of environmental chemicals, stress and lifestyle on immune function for thirty years. Here, he provides three hundred pages that expertly combine the hard science backing the ambitious claims, practical tips, anecdotes from forest “patients” and beautiful images from forests around the world. The photos were so beautiful, in fact, that I almost felt as though I could bathe just in the pages of the book!
The author provides data from studies that support a wide range of both emotional and physical health benefits of forest bathing that include the ability to:
– Boost problem-solving ability and creativity
– Alleviate feelings of anxiety and other negative emotions
– Increase positive emotions
– Lower blood sugar levels and help you lose weight
– Reduce blood pressure
– Lower stress
– Improve pain thresholds
– Increase energy
– Boost the immune system
Dr. Li simply and elegantly explains the science behind each of these findings. For example, the euphoria many experience while working in the garden or eating a carrot fresh out of the ground is a result of a common and harmless bacteria (mycobacterium vaccae) found in soil that, when released into the air and inhaled, stimulates the immune system and makes us feel happy. He also shares results from studies which showed that “ten more trees on a city block can make residents feel as good as being given a $10,000 pay raise or being seven years younger.” The data reported was enlightening and clearly illustrated the linkage between the health claims and why time in the forest was able to have such a positive impact.
He also provides grounded and practical suggestions for getting the most out of a forest bathing experience, essentially how to soak in the experience using all senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Studies have shown that the optimum effects of forest bathing are felt around the two-hour mark, but benefits can be realized in as little as twenty minutes a day. Additionally, Dr. Li gives suggestions on how to create this healing and multi-sensory experience in your own indoor environments as well, by bringing plants indoors and using specific scents of incense.
This book reads like the ultimate love letter to forests. “The art of forest-bathing is the art of connecting with nature through our senses. All we have to do is accept the invitation. Mother Nature does the rest.” I think I hear a forest calling my name!
Amy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother and is passionate about helping others and writing.