Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing, the quirky name for this pursuit, does not require the removal of your clothes. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to wear long sleeves and pants since chiggers and ticks may be involved. Apparently, the activity comes from a Japanese idea that time in the woods promotes good physical as well as mental health. Neither hiking nor exercise is involved in this endeavor that is hyped in Japanese medicine’s healing and preventive health care.
I first learned about this by watching a morning news show, but like almost anything else you can google the term to learn more. The easiest explanation it seems is to become a child again with natural curiosity. The idea is to use all your senses to experience nature outside. Just get yourself into some woods or the nearest facsimile and let your eyes, ears, nose, hands, and – with some discretion – even your mouth do their work. Supposedly, the effects last for a week. This may be a current health craze since I’ve heard from several venues of the benefits of various kinds of nature immersion.
Funny thing is that I knew all about this as a kid. Trips to my grandfather’s farm never seemed complete without a stroll up the lane between his pastureland and his native Mississippi woods that led to a one-row cotton patch that wound around a small hill in a spiral. My best ambles took me away from the childish games of younger sisters and cousins. The smell of honeysuckle, calls of the birds and lows of the dairy cows, the trail of wispy dandelions blown into the sky, and the tartness of ripened blackberries, all took me away from the gathered crowd into a place all my own. The plant I looked for first was the beautyberry with its circle clusters of amethyst berries along the stems.
One of those bushes amid the woods out back helped the real estate agent sell us our house in Hattiesburg. Even without a knowledge of Shinrin-yoku, I knew my life would be happier with trees and a beautyberry bush. All was well until Katrina took out the forest and the bush. The trees have remarkably come back sooner than I expected, and I sprinkled a few beautyberry seeds around that I swiped in the winter from a community garden. This year, spotted pink blossoms on my new plants!
If no woods are available, you are not to worry. The news said a reasonable substitute can be had from nature pictures. I include a few for your wellbeing, including the pink blossoms of my beautyberry with its promise of amethyst berries to come.