On average, Americans spend about 93% of their lives indoors, including 6% inside an automobile (if you live near Atlanta or any of the nation’s major cities, no doubt the statistic is higher.) Studies show that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on mood– it’s calming, relaxing, refreshing, and invigorating. It can even affect our health, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, and boosting immunity. It pays to go outside.
Forest bathing has recently gained popularity in the United States. The term shinrin-yoku (forest bath) was first termed in Japan in the 1980s. This way of being with the woods doesn’t involve a bathing suit or swimming or even the normal activities one might expect to participate in on a trip to the woods– no hiking, running, biking, or camping.
Forest bathing promotes walking in the woods at a slow, aimless pace. The goal is not cardiovascular, it is to be with nature and to experience it with all five senses. Smell the fresh air, listen to birdsong, run your hands through a patch of moss, see the beauty in every season, and taste what the forest has to offer. Forest bathing is an immersion that slows us down and connects us to an inner silence not easily found in day-to-day indoor life.
The good news is that anyone– young or old, in shape or out– can participate in forest bathing and receive the benefits of time in nature. If you’re a city dweller and can’t make it to the woods, you can recreate the experience in a park or anywhere trees are found.
Whether you’re new to forest bathing or looking for pocket-sized inspiration to take on your next trip, we’ve gathered five books to help you find your way.
For a guide that informs and inspires, try The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World by Julia Plevin. This small book is written in a conversational tone that will guide you through the basics from preparing for the journey, to connecting with nature and making offerings. Think, reflect, share, and heal as you walk through the woods. You’ll learn about the psychology and benefits of forest bathing and be inspired by pretty pictures of trees from different settings. “What exactly is forest bathing?” Plevin begins, “Forest Bathing is the practice of intentionally connecting to nature as a way to heal.” Best for beginners.
Ten Speed Press
For carry-along inspiration that will fit in a pocket or pack, choose Forest Bathing Retreat: Find Wholeness in the Company of Trees by Hannah Fries with a forward by Robin Wall Kimmerer (who you might recognize as the author of one of our bestselling favorites Braiding Sweetgrass.) This book is perfect to take along as inspiration for your next journey or to flip through when you need a reminder of the natural world. Small and square and printed on textured paper, it reads in the second person. Feel your body relax as you follow the simple instructions: “Take a slow, deep breath, unclench your hands…” You’ll also find lots of beautiful, full-color photos and inspirational quotes and poems written by well-known authors such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Robert Frost. Best pocket guide for on-the-go inspiration.
For a pocket-sized quotation book to take on the trails, pick up The Little Book of Forest Bathing: Discovering the Japanese Art of Self-Care. This book is mainly inspirational quotes about nature, but you’ll also find bite-sized bits about forest bathing. Center yourself with motivational memes like, “Breathe in calm, breathe out stress.” Photos bring life to the words. Best for inspirational quotations.
Andrews McMeel Publishing
For those looking for an in-depth explanation of the history and healing power of forest bathing, reach for The Secret Therapy of Trees: Harness the Healing Energy of Forest Bathing and Natural Landscapes by Marco Mencagli and Marco Nieri. Unlike the other guides on our list, this one doesn’t offer photos. You’ll learn about the evolution of humanity and the importance of nature. Understand the science behind stress reduction. Learn about trees, ions, the biosphere, energy, and electromagnetism. Discover how even indoor plants can have a positive effect on our well-being. Best guide for the science and nature lover who loves to read.
For those who prefer enjoying nature without going outside Wise Trees by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel offers a journey around the world. This beautiful coffee table book features full color, full-page photos and inspirational stories about each tree. Visit the Portland Wishing Tree, the Oklahoma City Survivor Tree, the Ghost Tree in India, the Sacred Camphor tree of Japan, and Isaac Newton’s Apple Tree, among many others. Best coffee table book.