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How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness
- Read in 12 minutes
- Audio & text available
- Contains 7 key ideas
Forest Bathing (2018) is a guide to the Japanese practice of forest bathing. It explores the beliefs, culture, and traditions behind forest bathing, as well as various studies on its health benefits. It also lays out easy-to-follow steps for practicing forest bathing in any environment.
Key idea 1 of 7
Forest bathing is a Japanese practice based on the healing power of nature.
Imagine this: after a stressful week of deadlines and family obligations, you desperately need something to boost your mood and energy. A vacation would be ideal, but, unfortunately, you don’t have the time or money. But you can take a walk in a nearby park, and something tells you that this will do the trick.
That something is right! After about an hour of taking in the trees, flowers, and various sounds of nature, you feel refreshed.
You instinctively know that spending time in nature is good for you. What you might not know is that, in Japan, there’s a specific word for basking in nature and connecting with it in a healing way. It’s called forest bathing, or, in Japanese, shinrin-yoku.
The key message here is: Forest bathing is a Japanese practice based on the healing power of nature.
The term shinrin-yoku was coined in the early eighties by Tomohide Akiyama, the Director General of the Agency of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. At the time, Japanese people started practicing forest bathing because they believed that being in nature was beneficial. When you consider the centuries-long relationship that the Japanese have with forests, it makes sense that the practice of forest bathing developed there.
According to the author, Japan is a forest civilization, whose culture, religion, and philosophy are tied to forests. To start, two-thirds of the country is covered in forest. Practitioners of the main religions, Shinto and Zen Buddhism, believe that forests are divine spaces, and Japanese folktales are about tree-dwelling gods called kodama. Festivals and traditions in Japan also revolve around nature, and one example is hanami – a spring flower-viewing festival.
Despite this deep relationship with nature, many Japanese people today are disconnected from the natural world. An astounding 78 percent of the population lives in cities. This urbanization trend isn’t unique to Japan. The world is becoming increasingly urban; it’s estimated that, by the year 2050, 75 percent of the global population will live in cities.
Although there are definite perks to city-dwelling, it also increases stress. And more stress leads to higher chances of developing health conditions like cancer, strokes, and heart attacks. The good news is that forest bathing is more than refreshing. It also combats stress and improves health – as you’ll find out in the next blink.