Happy New Year! I am recently back from the most beautiful New Year’s Eve wedding on a cliff in Malibu, California. Pure magic and completely inspiring. It set the tone for 2016. Reflecting on all of the festivities of the holiday season in California, my mind sojourns to holidays spent in Sweden, where amidst crackling fires and candle light, I always make time for a walk in the forest. I love long walks in winter – the sounds of snow crunching, the crisp air and light peeking through towering birches and pine is simply spectacular.
And confirmed healthy!
Early last year, I was delighted to see “forest bathing” cited as a top wellness trend by SpaFinder Wellness 365.
The term forest bathing or “Shinrin Yoku,” which literally means “taking in the forest,” was coined in 1982 in Japan, where it has become a recognized stress management activity. As described by SpaFinder, forest bathing “revolves around a deceptively simply practice: quietly walking and exploring, with a mind deliberately intent on – and all senses keenly open to – every sound, scent, color and ‘feel’ of the forest.”
Yet, more than a walk in the woods, it is packed with benefits backed by scientific evidence. Multi-million dollar, decade-long research by the Japanese government found that, more than city walking, forest bathing reduces:
* heart rate by 5.8%
* blood pressure by 1.4%
* cortisol levels by 12.4%
* sympathetic nerve activity by 7%
Most significantly, findings reveal that exposure to phytoncides – the airborne, aromatic oils emitted by trees – has a long-lasting impact on the immune system.
The SpaFinder report continues to say that urbanization is fueling the trend by “putting nature and simplicity at a higher premium.” The “prescribing of nature” by the medical community has had a similar effect. In the United States, Dr. Robert Zarr, founder of Park RX and considered the pioneer of ‘prescribing nature’ – has written hundreds of prescriptions since 2013 for people with conditions like asthma and obesity to get out and move in nature.
Spas worldwide are also taking note, introducing forest bathing programs as the next generation guided walk and combining spa services with forest therapy. Kerstin, always close to nature and with great respect for Sweden’s indigenous Sami people, introduced a nature-based therapy years ago. Sami Zen, which debuted in Sweden in 2005, includes a gentle exfoliation, herbal bath and Sami Zen massage in a “kota” (traditionally, an indigenous tent made from natural materials) all choreographed to mesmerizing joik music, which some have described as being similar to Native American chanting.
I, perhaps like many of you, have always found solace in nature. And especially in walking in the forest. Although I was unable to make it back to Sweden this winter season for a forest walk or Sami Zen treatment, I am finding gentle ways to bring the forest into my coastal California life.
I have a simple Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser by Now Solutions which emits a faint essence into any room. It is small but does the trick. I love changing the oils to match the seasons – Douglas Fir and Ravensara during winter, and lighter essences like Bergamot and Rosewood Leaf during spring and summer.
I also take time out often to nourish winter-cracked feet with our Kerstin Florian Fuß Balm, a woodsy blend of menthol, rosemary, pine and lavender.
An early riser by nature, one of my favorite times is sunrise. I start every day with meditation and then enjoy the fireplace in my kitchen with a cup of tea as I sort my thoughts for the day.
Being attuned to nature regardless of our surroundings and experiencing it through as many senses as possible is at the heart of forest bathing and its many benefits. What a wonderful ‘trend’ to see gain momentum.
May this year bring you joy, health, love and continued self-discovery, the greatest blessings we can all ask for.