Is Forest Bathing the Summer’s Version of Hygge?
The Japanese practice promotes wellness through absorbing nature.
Summer. The word evokes images of lounging in the pool, reading in a hammock, sipping rose on porches—relaxing! But when was the last time you truly had a relaxing day in the summer? In reality, it seems like the months that span from May to August are just as stressful as ever. Our days are spent toting the kids to and from day camp, sweating profusely during our daily commute, occasionally venturing out of the air conditioning for a crowded concert or festival, attending one too many weddings, and catching up on the housework and laundry in between.
If the Danish concept of hygge helped you get through the dark days of winter, this summer you might want to try shinrin-yoku to help yourself reset. Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese practice of mindfully taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of nature in order to bring physiological and psychological wellness without any distraction. It roughly translates to “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere” in English. So while it means you might have to forgo a beautiful Instagram, benefits to spending time in nature include not only vitamin D and movement, but fewer negative thoughts and better stress relief, according to a 2015 study.
The concept has made waves in the media over the past years with pieces about the practice in Outside magazine and the Washington Post, among others. But it’s again gaining momentum this summer, this time on Pinterest. According to the image saving and sharing site, searches for “forest bathing” have increased by 152 percent this year.
Don’t live near a forest? There’s plenty of opportunities to indulge in forest bathing—both at home and on vacation. According to Skift, some hotels that offer “forest bathing” in their wellness packages include the Trout Point Lodge in Nova Scotia, Six Senses Duoro Valley in Portugal, Tree Hotel in Sweden, and Tenneessee’s Blackberry Farm. If you live near San Francisco, for $30 a person, you can go forest bathing as part of the Airbnb's new “experience offerings.” And according to a 2016 article by Quartz, you can take a forest bath as long as you can expose yourself to greenery—just make sure you leave your phone at home!