Feeling Stressed? Forest Bathe


Photo Courtesy: Azure Nikora

Take some time to breathe deeply and hug a tree.

The stress of this time is nothing new for anybody. For high school seniors, getting ready to submit college applications is already confusing in itself, not to mention the addition of that little pandemic. Point being, it can be very difficult to stay focused and even motivated to do the things we know we should be doing, and thatʻs ok, because luckily for us, the Japanese have a solution.


Introducing… tree-hugging! Ah yes, the infamous “tree-huggers”, known endearingly by most as hippie-style environmental enthusiasts who chain themselves to redwoods to keep loggers from cutting them down, which in many cases, theyʻre not wrong. Iʻm here to share with you the not-so-new practice, in fact, I am very late to the party, of Shinrin-Yoku.


Formulated in Japan in 1982 where the forestry ministry coined the phrase, shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, was a national public health initiative that encouraged people to reconnect with nature and in turn, reap the benefits of better overall wellbeing, peace, happiness, and lowered cortisol and blood pressure levels.

Fortunately, no soap or loofah is necessary for this type of bathing, as all you need to do is find a green space or forest that speaks to you. Take your time, walk slowly, if you wish to go barefoot, so be it, and just let nature in through all of your senses. This time is yours and everybody finds relaxation in their own way.

This is also a no-exercise zone, but purely yours to become enveloped in the atmosphere and truly savor every sound and sight. As Dr. Qing Li, author of FOREST BATHING: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness explains, “shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.”

The practice has caught on all over the globe with the Icelandic Forest Service also inviting people to hug trees while social distancing measures prevent them from hugging other people.  As forest ranger Þór Þorfinnssonin gushed in a news interview with the Icelandic Broadcasting Service RÚV, “When you hug [a tree], you feel it first in your toes and then up your legs and into your chest and then up into your head. It’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges.”

In our day of constant moving and “gettin’ stuff done”, we always need to make sure we are taking the time to check in with ourselves and bask in the bounty that nature is. This will look different for everybody, but whatever way you do it, it is sure to bring a tear to the PE teacherʻs eyes. So get that oxytocin flowing and hug a tree!