"Go outside and meet the world with all of your senses...
to be without nature is to be deprived of its' life-giving and life affirming properties"
I scribbled this quote down on one of the pages of my sketch book whilst staying at North Lodge at Glen Dye in the Scottish Highlands earlier this year. I was reading an article by Ruth Allen entitled, "The Science of Stepping Outside" and this particular quote really resonated with me. I love being outdoors, surrounded by the wilds of nature and I feel that this quote really captures the essence of that feeling - of being completely embraced and engulfed by a landscape, be it a vast stretch of rugged coastline, a wide expanse of open moorland or a dense and towering forest.
I've been meaning to write a blog post on the benefits of Forest Bathing for some time now, but you know, life is busy and there's never enough time to do all the stuff on the list. Which makes this post even more pertinent, as I want to talk about Forest Bathing as an antidote to the pressures and stresses of modern life.
The concept of Forest Bathing originated in Japan, where it is known as Shinrin-Yoku. It is the therapeutic practice of immersing oneself in nature amongst the trees, taking in the forest atmosphere and spending time focusing on sensory engagement to connect with nature.
Whilst we all recognise that being amongst nature in this way can help you feel more relaxed, it has also been found that Shinrin Yoku carries many proven health benefits too. Being calm and quiet amongst the trees can actually help reduce blood pressure and stress levels, boosting health and well being in a natural way. It gives you the opportunity to awaken your senses to the sights, sounds and scents around you, naturally slowing you down and bringing you into the moment.
When surrounded only by the natural world, and without the distraction of screens, we can begin to move outside the tangle of our own mind. We can free ourselves up to be more present in the moment. According to Allen, when dwarfed by the canopy of trees, deep in the forest, we also begin to stimulate feelings of awe, becoming more attuned to the world around us, allowing us to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. On a biological level, those feelings of awe have also been shown to reduce internal inflammation. Clever Mother Nature, eh? Always nurturing.
It has also been proven that being outside can lower the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, helping to restore a sense of calm and order to our busy minds. . In addition, the act of walking calmly in this way helps to clear the mind and, in turn, aids problem solving. With an uncluttered mind, we are able to gain perspective, think more clearly and feel less overwhelmed. It's no coincidence, therefore, that we use the expression "I'm going for a walk to clear my head".
The tools we need to help restore clarity and calm to our minds and induce a sense of wellbeing are freely available within the natural world. But what about those times when we are unable to get outside, perhaps when we are working or spending time at home? How can we tap into the principles of Shinrin Yoku to help us clear our busy minds and induce a sense of calm?
Perhaps our favourite way of inviting a sense of calm and relaxation is to light a candle and infuse the home with a soothing natural fragrance. The clever guys at Earl of East have perfectly captured the essence of the forest in their Shinrin Yoku Soy Wax Candle - with an earthy blend of cedar wood, oakmoss and black pepper. Its wonderful earthy-mossy aroma eludes to the wet forest floor, instantly transporting you back to nature and soothing the senses.
It has also been scientifically proven, that being around blue and green spaces can improve relaxation and aid recuperation. As well as these being colours we tend to associate with outdoor spaces, we can also incorporate these colours into our interior spaces too, particularly in rooms where we want to feel relaxed such as the bedroom or the bathroom. If you work from home, maybe also consider a soothing shade of blue or green for your work space to help keep stress levels down.
Lighting incense whilst working is another trick we often use here to help clear a cluttered mind and facilitate focus. Our Earl of East incense cones in grounding Sandalwood or uplifting Rose scents, are particularly good for this. I find the soothing fragrance really helps slow down my racing mind and helps me to concentrate on the task in hand.
Of course, introducing plants to your home is also a great way of bringing the outside in and can also help purify the air in your home. In addition, houseplants have been shown to help induce feelings of calm, increase concentration and productivity and also relieve stress and anxiety.
Last but not least, you can always declare your love for the great outdoors sartorially. Our friends over at sustainable clothing brand, Stamp, have designed a great tee within their latest collection, to remind us that -
'Life's Better Outside'
Their white 100% Organic Cotton T-Shirt, features a dark charcoal print created with eco-friendly water based inks. This T-Shirt is an oversized fit with dropped shoulder sleeves - perfect for outdoor adventures or for lounging around in, whilst dreaming of days exploring the forest. I just had to have one as the image reminds me so much of our amazing walks through the wilds of Glen Dye. You can shop the T-Shirt here.here.