Dr. Qing Li is the world’s foremost expert on forest medicine and the author of the new book, Forest Bathing. His groundbreaking studies have demonstrated the many benefits of shirin-yoku. It’s quite remarkable how spending time in the forest can alleviate many modern health problems. Being in nature isn’t just good for the soul – science has shown that it’s good for us on a cellular level.
11 Benefits of Forest-Bathing
- Reduce blood pressure
- Lower stress
- Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health
- Lower blood-sugar levels
- Improve concentration and memory
- Lift depression
- Improve pain thresholds
- Improve energy
- Boost the immune system
- Increase anti-cancer protein production
- Help you lose weight
Sounds great, right? But we’re all super busy, and it’s tough to find time for a leisurely walk in the woods. Here’s the good news: you can forest bathe at work. And even better: forest-bathing at your desk will make you more productive. People who have plants in their workspaces are more energized, less stressed, more able to concentrate, and more creative.
“Bringing nature into our workspaces doesn’t just make us feel better,” says Dr. Li, “it actually improves our health. Plants have been proven to reduce the general feelings of ill health associated with Sick Building Syndrome—dry and itchy skin, sore throats and headaches, lethargy, irritability and poor concentration.”
Indoor air can be two to five times as polluted as the air outside. So the first step in forest bathing at work is bringing plants into your workspace. They’ll release oxygen (boosting your brain power) and clean the air of toxins often found indoors.
Top 10 Air-Purifying Plants
- Peace Lily
- Golden Pothos
- English Ivy
- Gerbera Daisy
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
- Bamboo Palm
- Red-edge Dracaena
- Spider Plant
If it’s challenging to integrate plants into your workspace, consider using a diffuser to bring the scent of the forest indoors. Use Japanese essential oil blends that contain white cypress, hinoki wood and leaf, rosemary, cedarwood, eucalyptus, and pine. You can also leave fresh cedarwood shavings in a bowl on your desk for a woodsy scent.
Give Yourself a Green Micro-Break
Having a view of nature from your window can make you feel better about your job and reduce job-related stress. When you’re mentally fatigued, take a “green micro-break”—you don’t even have to leave your chair.
One study found it can take as little as 40 seconds looking out the window at nature to help us feel focused and alert. Another study showed that just looking at the color green for a moment before doing a creative task can boost performance!
If you don’t have a view of nature from your desk, consider getting a large photograph or painting of a natural scene. Place it where it’s easy for you to see throughout your day, and let your gaze rest there for a minute before tackling a big task.
Taking Your Forest Bathing into the Forest
Okay, so you’ve enhanced your workspace with cleansing plants, and you’ve given yourself a natural view to boost your productivity throughout the day. Now you’re ready for the real thing. But where should you go? What should you do? It’s pretty simple.
Find a wooded area thick with trees—any urban park will do, though benefits increase when it’s untouched forest in a national park, for instance. Now give yourself two (ideally four) hours to walk several miles. Be mindful—it’s not a race. Stay hydrated. Take breaks whenever you need to. Breathe deeply and with intention. Bring the air of the forest into your lungs and exhale with gratitude.
Photo Credit: Brooke Lark/Unsplash