Dozing under the dappled shade of a tree in full summer bloom, watching the leaves gently rustling in the light breeze, as snatches of twinkling sunlight sparkle like diamonds through the foliage as you breathe in the clear, fresh air… What could possibly be more conducive to a state of calmness in body and mind?
In Japan, however, they take this seemingly idle activity a whole lot more seriously and even have a name for it. “Shinrin-yoku”, or forest bathing, is considered highly beneficial as a natural aromatherapy. A forest-bathing trip involves visiting a wooded area for a leisurely period of relaxation and recreation, while breathing in substances called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which have positive effects on wellbeing and stress relief. And it’s not just a romantic ideal. Although there is not a huge amount of research on the subject, the forest-bathing effect has been proven in a medical experiment conducted by Japan’s Forestry Agency to have clear health benefits and healing properties, and it is growing in popularity in many other countries, including Germany, Taiwan and South Korea.
For your child, the appeal of a spot of tree bathing – even if it isn’t in the depths of a forest – is that it also offers the chance for her to indulge in a few moments of reverie, which, according to psychologists, is far from being wasted time: a little daydreaming can actually help your child crystallise her goals and achieve her aims. “Paradoxical though it sounds, daydreaming is what makes us organised,” says Eric Klinger, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. “We think of daydreams as scatterbrained and unfocused, but one of the functions of daydreaming is to keep your life’s agenda in front of you; it reminds you of what’s coming up, it rehearses new situations, plans the future and scans past experiences so you can learn from them.”
So the message is: choose your tree, make yourself comfortable and let yourself drift off into a dreamy state of thoughtfulness…
This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article