Did you know that historically speaking, the fact that humans mostly live in cities, surrounded by concrete and technology, is very recent? For 99.9% of humanity, humans lived in harmony with nature, or at least surrounded by it. It is therefore a minimal 0.01% remaining that represents the place of urban life in the history of mankind.
What exactly does that entail? On one hand, since the advent of modern technology and urbanization, there have been a radical increase in physical and mental illnesses, and on the other hand, humans are disconnected from nature and therefor grant less efforts to protect it. Yet trees, for example, have a positive and even healing impact on mankind, and given our recent reforestation efforts, this is what we would like to discuss with you today.
Shinrin-yoku, or tree bathing
In the 1980s, Japanese doctors looked into the therapeutic and medical benefits of walking in the forest, and what they discovered is very interesting: trees and some herbaceous plants give off phytoncides, a group of volatile organic compounds. Regular exposure to phytoncides have all kinds of benefits, both medical and therapeutic. It is for these reasons that the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term "Shinrin-Yoku", which literally translates to "tree bathing" and decided to encourage the population to practice it as often as needed.
But no, tree bathing has nothing to do with taking a bath in the middle of a forest. It’s all about walking among the trees, quite simply. Be careful, however! To do so properly and reap the benefits, we must put technology aside, and slow down our pace. We absolutely must refrain from turning shinrin-yoku into a hike. Instead, we have to walk slowly and take the time to breathe deeply, in order to inhale and enjoy the benefits of the famous phytoncides. Stopping to sit and observe the scenery is also encouraged.
The many benefits of sylvotherapy
Tree therapy, or sylvotherapy, is effective for all kinds of ailments, both physical and psychological. This is because phytoncides have the benefits of lowering cortisol (the stress hormone) and our heart rate, in addition to acting as an anti-inflammatory and strengthening the immune system.
Although sylvotherapy is not a curative practice in itself, and therefore does not alone have the capacity to cure diseases, it has a positive effect on anxiety, mental health, stress and cardiovascular diseases. Shinrin-yoku has even been shown to help grieving people get a little better.
How and where to practice shinrin-yoku?
You don't have to go to Japan, or even have access to a forest to practice sylvotherapy. Sitting under a tree for about 20 minutes (and barefoot, when the weather permits it) would also be beneficial, as is an environment with several plants. In fact, some herbaceous species give off more phytoncides than others: this is the case of lavender, myrrh, thyme and rosemary.
If you have access to an urban wooded area that cannot necessarily be considered a forest, that's fine too ... hence the importance of reforestation in urban areas! Just be sure to walk slowly, breathe deeply, put your smartphone aside, and take the time to observe nature.
The importance of reforestation and protecting natural environments
We know that while trees are good for our physical and mental health, they are also essential for the environment. A single tree can, on its own, absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide and produce 260 pounds of oxygen per year.
At ATTITUDE, we LOVE trees and understand the magnitude of their importance, and that's why we pledged, on April 20, 2020, to plant 1 million trees by next Earth Day. How do we do it? It's simple: each ATTITUDE product we sell plants a tree, all thanks to our collaboration with two non-profit organizations that are responsible for reforesting the areas that need it most urgently, all over the globe.
Through Eden Reforestation Project and One Tree Planted, we are not only helping to make the planet green again, but we are also providing fairly paying jobs to needy villagers, who now have a much better quality of life thanks to their work reforesting their area.
To learn more about shinrin-yoku
If the subject of shinrin-yoku interests you and you would like to learn more, here are some books to explore on the subject:
Shinrin-yoku : the Japanese art of forest bathing Miyazaki, Yoshifumi auteur. Portland, Oregon : Timber Press, 2018.
Among trees : a guided journal for forest bathing : observations & inspirations Sutton, Adrianna auteurPortland, Oregon : Timber Press, 2018.
So? What are you waiting for? Go take a tree bath!