Forest Bathing and the Calming Effect of Nature

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

woods, nature and forest bathing
Does this picture have a calming effect on you?

Recently I’ve been quite interested in the ideas behind ‘Forest Bathing’, this is not literally taking a bath in a forest, but is the Japanese idea of Shinrin-Yoku, concerned primarily with the healing power of nature. In the last year or so, the world has seen a spate of books on the subject, from Dr Qing Li’s Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing to Sarah Iven’s Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You. The idea that being in nature can be healing probably sounds far-fetched, but there is

plenty of science to back it up. I recently read The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, a book that discusses Japanese experiments in ‘forest bathing’. She looked particularly at the Japanese culture because they have some of the longest working hours in the world – and, horrifically, a high suicide rate to correlate with it. It was shown that just a 2 hour walk in the forest, with technology completely switched off, can reduce blood pressure and feelings of depression.

This idea particularly interests me for two reasons: 1. Because as we move into the future, we seem to be much more disconnected from the natural world, which could contribute towards growing levels of anxiety. It seems to me that we need to start teaching our children a different way of being, now. 2. Because I have felt it myself. Sitting in my kitchen, typing this, I look out over fields, I can hear birds, I could walk down the street and go for a 4 hour long walk in the country. I feel it pulling me. I am happy. It wasn’t always like this. I grew up in London. I always knew I wasn’t meant to live in a city, that I couldn’t do it forever; the noise, the anger, the confusion, the pollution, the lack of space, never being able to get a breath of fresh air, the lack of green, open life. All of this beat at me constantly. But the minute I went out into the country, I’d take a breath, and it would fall off and away. Nature makes me happy instantly. If I go for a walk in the forest I find myself grinning inanely after a mile, starting to walk slower, take my time, appreciate what is there. Sod my phone, I’ve never liked it anyway. I think it contributes to anxiety and depression. (Again, I recommend Matt Haig’s Notes on a Nervous Planet.)

The point I’m getting at is that for me, it was always clear that nature is calming, do we really need the monetisation of this to tell us so? Perhaps you could let me know.

Nicola x

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