Forest Bathing – Why the scent of trees is so relaxing
Going into the forest, breathing in the scent of the trees and the forest floor, and letting the greenery take effect can have a healing impact on us – making forest bathing the perfect antidote to stressful urban living.
06 November 2019
Even if we have never stepped foot in an actual forest, most of us know what a forest looks like through photographs or films showing large wooded areas in places like Canada, Japan, Siberia or the Black Forest in Germany. Forests have an air of mystery about them for us humans, as we are usually only temporary visitors.
Trees have a strong influence on the earth’s climate. Trees clean the air. When it rains in the forest, not only does it make a beautiful sound, it also refreshes the air, releasing a very special scent that stirs our senses. The scent of the forest is quite unique. What used to be considered just a feeling is now proven by science, which calls it the “biophilia effect”. Going into the forest, breathing in the scent of the trees and the forest floor, and letting the greenery take effect can have a healing impact on us. But this holistic experience is so much more than ‘just a feeling’.
Yearning for nature According to UN estimates, by 2050 two out of every three inhabitants on the earth will live in an urban environment. There are currently 31 megacities worldwide – by the year 2050 it is likely there will be 50 such cities. Each of these urban hotspots has more than 10 million inhabitants. Not only the growing mass of the population, but also increasing digitalisation is causing people to move further and further away from nature. It’s no wonder that many people yearn for a connection to the natural world, to immerse themselves in nature.
Surrounded by trees, humans are able to experience something vast and complex. Something that can be hard for us to put into words. The Japanese speak of “shinrin-yoku”, meaning “forest bathing”: the immersion in nature with all your senses. A mindful stroll through nature, without purpose except to soak up the forest atmosphere, collecting sensory impressions, reducing stress – this is what “shinrin-yoku” is all about. In Japan, forest therapy has been integrated into the state healthcare system, ever since people became aware of its many positive effects.
Worldwide researchNot only in Japan, but worldwide, scientists are researching what is so beneficial about the forest when we are immersed in its pure, green vegetation. Could it be the comparatively low temperatures that increase physical performance? Do the special lighting conditions play a role? Or is it the colour green, which has been shown to have a calming effect on the vegetative nervous system, promoting healing processes? Perhaps the springy forest floor, which is particularly good for joint and back problems? Or the particular sense of tranquillity it exudes?
More trees, less disease?A study shows that 20 minutes spent in a natural, green environment is enough to noticeably reduce our level of stress hormones. Our cortisol level is lowered, while certain enzymes, which are increasingly released during stress, are broken down. Researchers call it a “nature pill” in the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology, and their data is part of numerous findings on the subject of forests and the human psyche. In the 1980s, for example, the Swedish researcher Roger Ulrich discovered that patients who looked out of the hospital window onto a scenic green landscape after an operation needed fewer painkillers and recovered more quickly. Later, US environmental psychologist Marc Berman discovered that residents of green areas suffered less from cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Bathing in the forest connects us with ourselvesIn the forest there is nothing to buy, there are no short-term temptations and even goals set by others appear more distant rather than exerting pressure. Right in its midst, we become part of it. We feel elevated and grounded at the same time. Where else can the cycle of new life and death be experienced so gently yet so intensely? Deadwood lies about the forest floor, while young plants shoot in the fertile ground it creates. In the midst of this natural cycle, a transformation takes place inside us.
Pine Reviving Bath MilkTake a long soak in the bath to benefit from the natural health-giving properties of essential oil of silver fir and Siberian pine. The invigorating scent of the forest will help refresh mind and body if you’re feeling the effects of a cold. To help clear a head cold, try a few drops on a steamy hot face cloth as a gentle refresher.
Forest Harmony ShowerIf you don’t have easy access to woodland, summon some of the experience of being in tune with nature with our new Forest Harmony Shower, with the uplifting fresh scent of the pine trees, bringing the invigorating pleasure of a winter forest to any bathing ritual.