Feeling the Forest

Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing) means: “ to take in the forest atmosphere” or “simply be in the forest” The term originated in Japan in the 1980’s as a preventive practice for good health and healing. Scientific studies show that spending time under the canopy of a living forest has undeniable benefits for humans. 

Diving deeper into the ritual of Forest Bathing is both intriguing and inspirational for me. Trees release organic compounds into the air that boost our immunity, enhance our mood and expand our senses of our natural surroundings. This in turn can reduce stress and improve our overall mental and physical health. Tree compounds called phytoncides cast off the familiar scent of cedar that is both pleasing and soothing to our senses. 

Forest Bathing is less of a walk in the woods, and instead more of an experience with no destination. It’s slow moment with the intention of fully immersing yourself to the sights, smells and sounds of the forest.  Take it a step further by closing your eyes, sitting on ground or removing your shoes to feel the earth at your feet in order to truly connect to the earth. 

I am continually drawn to the woods, often alone (with Bark) in order to find some degree of calmness in my own mind. Forest Bathing is a form of mindful meditation that can slow down the pace of life in order to just be in the present moment. I often find myself in surly situations that require a walk in the woods for clarity and composition during the chaos. Nothing can replace this form of therapy for wellbeing in my own life. In the past, I spent a considerable amount of time in the forest (previously as co-owner of a tree planting company in Canada, combined with over two decades of living in rural mountain towns), but it is only recently that I have experienced this deeper connection with my natural surroundings. This has affected my professional design practice in a profound way. 

As an Interior Designer, I used to focus primarily on inside spaces but now I place emphasis on exteriors. I no longer design floor plans that bring the outdoors in; instead I am now creating homes that bring the indoors out. There are many ways in which we can bring the indoors out in; thereby creating an opportunity to feel the forest from within our own home.

1. Unobstructed sight lines to the outside world. Taking down the walls of a home (figuratively speaking) is achieved by strategically placing doors within a footprint to create seamless indoor/outdoor transitions.

2. Strategic window placement that frames the forest.

3. A clear glass vase with a collection of unrefined greenery is another way to feel the forest from within.

4. Simplistic greenery laid out across our dining table encourages your family to linger longer over meals because it feels like you are on a picnic in the woods. 

“in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks” -John Muir

Jennifer Haas