22 October 2009

"Bathe" in forest air

My last post got me thinking... every garden knows that plants make them feel better, but I wondered if there was an scientific research on the subject?

Turns out there is lots, and being around green spaces and plants is decidedly good for you:
It reduces stress related illness , reduce depression -- and the positive effects of living around parks it not just due to the increased exercise as this study found that even controlling for increased exercise, people living around lots of green spaces still have better mental health.

Usually reading scientific studies is fairly dry, but in the study I link to above on reducing depression (by a Japanese group of researchers) includes a perfectly wonderful Japanese phrase: Shinrin-yoku,  which they translate as "forest air bathing" -- it is an awkward translation, but much people sun bath at the beach, you can also "bath" in the rich, restorative atmosphere of a forest. I've always loved the peace and beauty of woods, but I never thought of it was bathing before... What a lovely image! I'm going to have to go forest bathing this weekend.

1 comment:

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

It would be interesting to try to pin down what exactly it is about parks that has this effect on people. Are the plants really the key factor? In my experience, while the forest is certainly a great place for shinrin-yoku (is that from Chinese senlin-youyu, I wonder?), I can get the same restorative effect at winter when the forest is not green, or in the desert, or at sea. Spending time with animals has also been shown to reduce stress, and of course there's stargazing, and religion.

My hunch is that the operative factor is perspective, being put in your place, being reminded that the human thing isn't the only thing going on in this universe.