Shinrin-yoku

trees 2trees

I was entranced to discover there is a word for the feeling of well being I share with millions of you – Shinrin-yoku, a Japanese term that means “forest bathing”. The idea being that spending time in the forest and natural areas is good preventative medicine, lowering stress. Allelochemic substances ‘phytonicides’help slow the growth of fungi and bacteria. When humans are exposed to them, these chemicals are scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, relieve stress and boost the growth of white blood cells.  garlic, onion, pine, tea tree and oak are all examples of plants emitting phytonicides.

When we walk in Scotland, we spend most of our time simply being in the landscape, enjoying the feeling of well-being that we both find there. I take lots of photographs there and these inform much of what I do when I am creating both illustration and the handmade books. I go back to those photographs time and again, both to recreate the feeling of creativity, and to inspire new designs.  Just browsing through my back catalogue  provokes a feeling of joy, remembered tranquillity and when I am in a slump of not knowing how to move forward, I take a step back and invariably come across something to make the spark reignite.

Today I rediscovered these woods, and immediately I am reminded of the wonderful treatise by Herman Hesse on the sanctuary of trees. I breathed a sigh of recognition when I first read his words – they are beautiful – I can only urge you to find a copy.

You can find the essay online here ; Herman Hesse Wandering

In the meantime, don’t forget to get some time in to shinrin-yoku

 

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4 thoughts on “Shinrin-yoku

  1. DK Fennell

    Yes, I agree about the value of experiencing the forest. I think that northern deciduous forests are among the more blissful places on earth. Up there with the coral reef and the African savannah. I happen to live right now in the middle of an area (in exurban New England) where there are vast deciduous forests, which (unlike most of the world) are getting bigger as more and more land is being re-forested. And we are about to enter that time of year when these forests will be ablaze with color, although, owing to climate change, the duration is not as dependable and the colors are decidedly muter than years before.

    But, while I can continuously walk through interlinked forests for several hundred miles (into Canada I am told) without seeing a car (and I try to walk several miles a day so I can see the daily changes in the forest), there is something else I think we need for our well-being. Maybe it is called “urban bathing,” if the Japanese have such a word. There is nothing like going to a heavily traversed and densely populated city and watch la comédie humaine.. In a city as packed as New York City people adopt an anonymity so impervious, that they can ignore all prying eyes. So I can sit on the edge of a fountain in Lincoln Center and watch all sorts of dramas play out without intruding or moving my head. It’s possible to understand a couple’s relationship by watching them walk a block. You can understand human interaction by body language; you don’t even need to hear. You can do the same thing in Central Park or even on a subway. All of this, to me, is necessary from time: to time to re-plug in. Aristotle said that we are social creatures. If we are too self-sufficient to need society, then we are gods; if we are naturally ill-equipped for social relations then we are beasts. The asocial man is either above or beneath our notice.

    Maybe natural solitude and society are both necessary and interconnected, like yin yang. Or maybe we are always discontented no matter our situation.

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    1. modestly Post author

      so wise! I still find that human connection de energises me , even though I enjoy it. I keep it to a minimum! That anonymous keying in to the human display is a little different. I too can enjoy that , but the distance is the key. You’re not giving anything away! Energy is interesting. Not that many human intereactions energise me – a few do – they have the opposite effect! Nice to hear from you again!

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