Our forest heals us

Mark Johanson reports for the BBC:

14 June 2016

Scottish literary giant Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that it’s “not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”

Forest bathing is more closely related to a contemplative practice

Forests have long been a place we go to clear our minds. But the simple act of strolling through woods, like Stevenson often did, isn’t so common these days. That could change if former wilderness guide Amos Clifford, who founded the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy in 2012, has his way. He’s formed a ‘forest therapy’ group for one reason: to preach the gospel of a new form of preventative healthcare known as “forest bathing” (a poetic term for using our five senses to absorb a forest’s atmosphere).

The Lodge at Woodloch staff train in 'forest bathing' (Credit: Amos Clifford)

“If you compare it to other ways of being in nature that we’re familiar with – like hiking – it’s different because forest bathing is more closely related to a contemplative practice,” Clifford said.

On one of his guided walks in Sonoma County, near San Francisco, a group of between six and 15 “bathers” might stroll just a half-mile in three hours. That’s because the practice is about slowing down the mind and body, as well as unplugging from devices.


A 2015 study from researchers at Stanford University, found walking in a park reduces blood flow to a section of the brain that’s typically associated with brooding (a mental state researchers claim is disproportionately common among urbanites). Meanwhile, similar studies show that adults who regularly take walks in green spaces have better concentration and are significantly less likely to suffer from depression than those who don’t.

(Credit: Getty Images)

(Credit: Getty Images)

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs was famous for conducting meetings while walking outdoors. Lately, more executives in Silicon Valley, among other places, have turned to forest bathing not only as an antidote for stress, but also a tool for business.

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