In Japan, people forest bathe. I don't mean that they take a bathtub out into the local forest and have a dip. They go into the forest and just... be. It's not a form of exercise, it's not to appreciate the beauty of the trees (although these are also benefits), it is simply to bathe in the atmosphere of the forest.
I recently came across some interesting scientific research on the practice that I thought I'd share with you. I've put links below to the papers, if anyone cares to read them. I found them fascinating.
A study published in 2010* using data from experiments conducted in 24 forests across Japan found that subjects who participated in forest bathing had lower heart rate, blood pressure, and concentrations of salivary cortisol - that's the hormone we produce to help us combat stress - when compared with those who walked through a city setting. Studies performed in other countries, such as Finland (2014)** and the USA (2015)*** showed similar results.
A 2007 Japanese study**** found that forest bathing bolsters your immune system, with researchers taking blood and urine samples of the test subjects before and after a 3 day/2 night trip in the forest. The subjects showed a 50% increase in what the researchers called their 'natural killer' cells, the ones that helped fight infections and cancers, after the trip, and a lowering of their adrenaline.
We know that trees excrete phytoncides into the air; these are the natural defence organisms that help the trees fight off infection from parasites, viruses and pathogenic bacteria. One theory is that the forest bathers breathe in these phytoncides and it ups their immune system. However, the amounts of these phytoncides are minute in concentration in the open air, so that might not be the sole answer.
Trying to work out why forest bathing is so beneficial (it's even covered by some Japanese Health Insurance companies) is not really the point for me. The point is, it works. People feel better in a forest, especially a deciduous one. It's human nature to reduce everything to it's component parts to try and fine the one, definitive answer ("Aha! It must be the phytoncides!"), but I'm convinced that it's the act of forest bathing as much as the atmosphere you breathe in that reaps such benefits. It’s the beauty, the peace, the lack of negative thought, the simple fact of just being amongst the whispered language of the trees that does you good.
I created quiet trees to evoke the feeling of forest bathing. So that, even in the depths of the city, you can partake in a little bit of shinrin-yoku.
What brings you peace? Let me know in the comments section below.