“Forest Bathing” and it’s Health Benefits: News and Freestyle Post

In the NPR article “Suffering From Nature Deficit Disorder? Try Forest Bathing”, author Marcelo Gleiser reports on the findings Dr. Qing Li has found about the health benefits of the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, which can be described as “forest bathing”. Gleiser explains that in today’s society, approximately 54% of the world population lives in an urban area. While living in an urban area brings employment opportunities, social connections, and cultural experience, it also limits the ability of urban residents to experience nature and make environmental connections. There are widely felt effects of air, noise, and light pollution in urban areas. Gleiser reports a statistic that was found by an EPA study. According to the EPA, “Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where the concentration of air pollutants can be 2 times to 5 times higher than outdoors”.

Dr. Qing Li has found the answer to this issue that more than half of the world’s population is experiencing. In his new book, “Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness”, Dr. Li provides his findings (backed by research data) that spending time in nature, such as in forests, parks, and other green areas, can reduce common health problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. His scientific findings conclude that spending time with trees and in green spaces result in reduced levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Other health benefits that come from spending time in these natural settings include increased energy levels (by more than 30%), sleep improvement (by 15%), immune system improvement, better cardiovascular health, and improved parasympathetic system response. Additionally, practicing shinrin-yoku results in a general better sense of well-being. Dr. Li says that those who live in large cities should not panic though, if their location doesn’t provide access to large forests. He says that even going for regular walks in a park, having house plants, and practicing aromatherapy using tree oils can show the same health benefits. The practice of shinrin-yoku can be done by anyone, no matter their location, and can result in important health benefits for those who make time to connect with trees and nature.

I thought this article was very interesting because it relates to my personal connection with nature. For the past nine summers I have spent my summers on an island in the middle of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Being surrounded by trees on the island is very calming, and improves my well-being during the summer. I feel very connected to nature during the summer, and I try to incorporate this feeling into my life in Charleston as a student in an urban area. I have flowers in my apartment and I go for regular walks and runs down to the Battery and around Colonial Lake. Being near the water and surrounded by trees and plants provides a sense of shinrin-yoku during the stressful school year. I think that other students should try to incorporate shinrin-yoku into their lives, because even the smallest connections with trees and nature have great health improvements. It is a simple thing to do to have a house plant or go for a walk, and doing so can relieve some of the stress and anxiety that we feel as students. I believe that if more students focused as much on self-care as they do on school work, we would all feel less stress, and have a greater sense of well-being in the busy lives that we lead.

Link to article: https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2018/04/04/599135342/suffering-from-nature-deficit-disorder-try-forest-bathing

Human Culture and Nature

On my weekends here in South Carolina’s low country, I can commonly be found either exploring a new beach or woodlands. It’s my escape from the gradually increasing fast-paced life of downtown; and, as a biology major, a favorite pass time. On my outings, I’ve seen a vast amount of South Carolina’s wild residents from deer to alligators. While these encounters are typical for me, they definitely aren’t for everyone. When I told one of my friends from D.C. that my ecology lab involved us wading in wild swamps, she seemed quite horrified. I didn’t think much of it until I had to read an article on American culture and nature for a sociology class. The article is titled Natures Looking Glass and it delved in to how a pair of red-tailed hawks fascinated city-goers in Manhattan. The hawks chose the ledge of an NYU building to start building a nest to raise a family. The students took notice and set up a camera to capture what everyone felt was “pure nature”. They were all entranced by the hawks’ daily life and a professor took notice of the students’ view of nature. They looked at it as “unspoiled” and “unaffected by humans”. Their bubble was soon popped when the hawk couple began to add human products to their nesting materials. People criticized the choice of material as “unnatural” and disrupted peoples images of the hawks being “natural”. Sociologists went on to describe how people living in more urban setting tend to view nature as separate from humans. They termed this as “asocial nature”. Sitting back for a moment, I realized how odd this sounded to me. Growing up in rural South Carolina, nature was everywhere.  It was totally normal to see white tail deer a few times a week or to see otters around the lake streams. I personally had never thought of nature as separate from humans. After college, I plan on being an ecologist and after reading how some people have an asocial nature viewpoint; I think its even more imperative to educate people on nature. While I don’t think people should go up to bobcats or alligators wanting to “connect with nature” I do think that people should understand that we as humans are also animals and that we should not subtract ourselves from that category given that we share a lot of common needs with the rest of the animal kingdom. Conservation biology would probably go a lot smoother if people accepted themselves as part of nature and thus have even better reason to protect it. I encourage everyone to get to know your local ecosystems.


Source:Angelo, Hillary, and Colin Jerlomack. “Nature’s Looking Glass.” Vol. 11, ser. 1, 23 July 2012, pp. 24–29. 1, doi:10.1177/1536504212436492.