Forest bathing in your own backyard

Posted November 1, 2018 in Landscape Design

Nope, this blog post is not going to talk about swimming pools, spas or outdoor showers but rather a philosophy for living well.  While the concept of forest bathing has been around for a few decades, the concept is fairly new here in the United States.  About thirty years ago, researchers in Japan created this term for the practice of immersing yourself in nature by mindfully using all of your senses.  Known as shinrin-yoku, it is believed that this practice has many health benefits and is an integral element in preventative health and mental clarity.  Let’s take a deeper look into this philosophy and how we can apply it to our lives, even if we do not have any nearby forests to frolic.

So, what is forest bathing exactly, and what isn’t it?

In its original and purest form, you would find yourself walking slowly through a forested environment sans smartphone, earbuds, walkman, TI-89 calculator…anything that is technological and distracting…and using all of your senses to their fullest.  Using your eyes to see nature’s beauty and creatures, your nose to smell the dewdrops and earth, your ears to hear the birds sing while the breeze moves through the ferns, feel the sun’s warmth and experience the roughness of the tree bark as you pass, and your sense of taste to get a hint of the air as you stroll…this is forest bathing…this is the beginning of unpolluted stress relief.

You may think that a simple hike enjoying time with your friends is just the same thing, but it is not.  While hiking with your friends does feed the soul, you are also surrounded by distractions.  Forest bathing most certainly does not have a timeframe or agenda and hiking usually comes with its own set of disturbances.  Whether you like hiking for exercise, to reach that certain scenic spot for a picturesque photo or to chat about the gossip of the week, your focus is that of activity, not that of nature.  People that elect to forest bathe simply let their senses guide them, naturally leading them to their next experience.

Health Benefits

On the surface we know that a nature walk makes us feel lighter and happier, but the benefits are far greater.  Studies have shown that this practice of living in the present significantly relieves stress, increases immunity, lowers blood pressure and has the potential to prevent certain diseases, all while improving both physical and mental health.  In a series of experiments, professors of the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo set out with a group of adults on a three-day forest bathing experience.  Afterwards, tests were taken again and the results revealed that the group’s natural killer cell levels were significantly higher than previously recorded.  These particular cells are responsible for disease resistance and it is believed that forest bathing could help build bodies resistant to cancer development.  While more in-depth and quantifiable tests and results will be needed, this preliminary finding is a breakthrough in the medical community.

How can I experience forest bathing at home?

We are always on the go, moving fast, exhausting ourselves on the daily, we hardly have the time to find a forest and be without a cell phone.  We can customize the forest bathing experience and adapt it to our lifestyles to be able to enjoy the aforementioned benefits.  While an undisturbed forest would be ideal, we can certainly create our own sanctuary.  The most important thing is to reduce stress by eliminating distractions and be able to focus on the beauty that surrounds you.  I am not talking about putting your cell phone on the coffee table and laying in the middle of your living room…we need you to get outside!

Backyard bathing, a residential alternative to forest bathing, will not take much.  Surrounding yourself with your favorite flowers, plants and trees is enough to provide your favorite fragrances and an addition of a water fountain can provide the calming sound of a babbling brook; kick off your shoes and lay on a blanket in the fluffy soft grass.  You may think you look like a lunatic laying in your backyard, but trust us, once you forget the to-do lists and stop thinking about the presentation you need to give on Monday, you will feel the Earth’s energy like never before and feel yourself centering back to zero.

With a little planning, a form of forest bathing can take place right in your backyard.  However, if you look at your backyard and the last thing you see is beauty, love and peace, maybe its time to reimagine your space.  Working with a landscape designer who specializes in custom outdoor living spaces will be the bridge between how you want to feel in your own backyard and how it can be accomplished by adding beauty and function.

Here at MasterPLAN Outdoor Living, we do just that.  Ultimately, your home should end up nurturing you, not the other way around.  Your home is your sanctuary and where you should thrive, so our goal is to help our clients enjoy more of what they love to do instead of just dealing with what exists!  Partnering with our clients to create beautiful and functional outdoor living spaces custom fit for their family, lifestyle and property is our passion.  Whether your goal in the backyard is to experience peaceful tranquility in a minimalist aesthetic or create an entertainer’s dream oasis, MasterPLAN would love to sit down and chat about what that means to you and how we can accomplish it together.  If you would like to open up the conversation about your own outdoor living space, reach out to Masterplan.  It’s time to live your best life outdoors!

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