What the heck was that? I strained my ears to hear, it sounded as though a child was attempting to play clumsy chopsticks on the piano. But how could that be? This old house has a piano, but me and my snoring old yellow lab Paris were the only occupants at the moment. Or so I thought? As the mysterious notes continued, I tip toed down the stairs. Ah ha! I’m not sure who was more surprised—me or the squirrel bouncing over the keys.
The Beetthoven squirrel jumped off the piano, out the window and scurried into the woods. Intrigued, I sprang into pursuit. Of course, the squirrel disappeared before I could even slip on my shoes. Paris ambled down the stairs and looked up at me groggily.
“Well, why don’t we follow the musical squirrel into the forest?” I asked her. Paris’ ears perked up and she wagged slowly in response.
As we ventured into the New England forest, my delight from the unique squirrel encounter turned into awe at the natural beauty around me. As we wandered, listened, sniffed and felt the leaves, I began to practice what was recently described to me as “forest bathing.”
Shinrin yoku is a Japanese term directly translated as “forest bathing” or “forest therapy.” It is defined as the act of letting nature into your body through all five senses. The Japanese Japan’s Forestry Agency has funded about $4 million in research on its specific nature trails designated for forest bathing. Visitors are required to leave their phones and cameras at the trail head and wanderes are randomly pulled aside to have their blood pressure is taken. The evidence is clear—forest bathing is a powerful tool for healing and balancing the mind and body. They call it a miracle drug. Hmm…interesting...
As I wandered through the forest, I did indeed feel like I was on some sort of miracle drug—high on life! No wonder the forest dwelling Beethoven squirrel has such musical inspiration!
Curious to give forest bathing a try? Dr. Qing Li, the author of Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness explains how you can get started here[i]:
“First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.
The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree. Dip your fingers or toes in a stream. Lie on the ground. Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm. This is your sixth sense, a state of mind.”
Dr. Qing Lin explains that once you have connected with nature you have crossed the bridge to happiness. I say, bring it on! And while we’re at it, why limit ourselves to forest therapy? Why not try wave therapy, ocean therapy, mountain therapy, river therapy—you choose! There is no one size fits all to finding calm and relaxation, so find what works for you! I highly recommend building some sort of nature therapy into your routine as a wildpreneur. Slowing down, tuning in and re-setting your body/mind regularly is key to a successful and sustainable journey.
After extensive research on this topic, author Florence Williams writes in her book The Nature Fix, “distilling what I learned, I came up with a kind of ultrasimple coda: Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe. We all need regular check-in for personal introspection, goal setting and spiritual reflection. Best to turn the phone off.”
Go forth in the forest and wilderness beyond, my fellow wildpreneur. Open your five senses to the natural world. Need a buddy in the woods? Take a dog with you! They’re truly the masters of nature bathing! Oh and be sure to watch for the musical squirrel!