Need an instant mood boost? Try the Japanese art of ‘tree bathing’
Here’s a thought.
By 2050 it is estimated that two thirds of the world's population will be living in cities.
Whilst some might view this as progress it also seems to be contributing to many mental health issues.
So what can be done about it?
Our friends from the land of sushi, odd flavoured Kit-Kats and tiny trees that look like big trees have a simple solution: ‘Shinrin-Yoku’ which literally translates as ‘tree bathing' describes the action (perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly) of being amongst trees.
The Japanese were so enamoured with the belief that forest bathing had positive health effects that they commissioned an expensive study to prove it.
The result of this study concluded: ‘The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.’
This ability of nature to ‘heal’ us is a well studied phenomenon.
A US hospital study carried in the early 1980s compared the rates of recovery of patients from gallbladder operations (considered a simple form of surgery).
Those who had been placed in rooms with tree views recovered faster than those who looked out on to brick walls.
So what’s going on here then?
Firstly, according to the Japanese study, trees release natural oils called phytoncide which they use to protect themselves from insects and germs. Inhaling these have a correspondingly positive effect on our immune system.
Secondly, urban environments force us to be in an ‘alert’ state most of the time. Think of the times you've avoided fellow pedestrians, maniac bicycle dispatch riders and those drivers that seem to think that stopping for red lights is entirely optional.
By contrast, just 'being' in nature allows us to calm our senses which means less stress hormones being released into our body making us feel, well, less stressed.
So there you have it. If you are one of the growing number of people heading to live in the city don’t forget to take some time out at the weekend to bathe in some trees.