Go to a forest. Breathe.
Go to a forest.
Lie in a shaft of sunlight, a bed of tiny flowers, allow the leaves to drift past your fingertips.
Remember you are a human animal.
Let the air to wash over you and rinse the stress from your shoulders, the ache from your bones. Leave the tension of city life behind. Walk slowly, observe your surroundings.
Bark. Earth. The soft crinkle of leaves. A rock warmed by sunlight.
This simple practice is shinrin-yoku. Or forest bathing. Not literally washing yourself in the forest, as I thought when I first heard the term, but bathing yourself in the forest’s beauty. Washing away your city life and all that goes with it with the moist, dark, dank air of the woods. Air that’s been filtered, not by a machine, but by leaves and moss, warmed by pure sunlight.
Developed in Japan in the ’80s, shinrin-yoku is, essentially, forest therapy. The idea that if a person visits a forest or natural area, away from the stress of everyday life, and walks in a contemplative way, he/she will enjoy restorative benefits such as better focus, increased mood, higher energy and better sleep. If all of this sounds a bit obvious, that’s because it is. There are variants of shinrin-yoku in almost every culture (just take a look at any John Muir book or the Transcendentalist movement), but in Japan it’s become a major aspect of preventative healthcare. But the benefits go beyond reduced stress and lowered blood pressure. With more and more of us choosing to reside in cities, where nature all too often acts as an accessory to the constructs of man, forest bathing is an important reminder of what true, wild nature looks like. The untamed branches, calls of animals and birds unknown, paths unpaved and unmanicured. We must remind ourselves that the natural world is not ours to mold and tame, and that it’s worth saving for precisely that reason. The watered down version of trees and shrubs existing on city streets are not one and the same as the woods. The mushroom-scented, dripping, glittering forest, alive with mystery and secrets.
This weekend, the second weekend of Earth Month, leave your city life behind. Go to the forest, walk slowly, and breathe.
Portraits by Christopher Sharp, follow him on Instagram