June 23rd, 2020
A few nature preserves near our neighborhood stayed open during the coronavirus shelter in place but most of the others were closed. To be safe and to avoid crowds, I stayed away for 3 months until the restrictions were relaxed in June. That’s when I realized how much I had taken for granted the easy opportunity to be in natural surroundings, hills covered with trees, tiny brooks gurgling through them. Pre-coronavirus, I went for nearly-daily morning hikes in the hills nearby and returned feeling rejuvenated, both physically and in spirit. There’s a healing, replenishing quality to being in nature and while people all over the world know and have experienced it, this book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health And Happiness by physician and immunologist Dr. Qing Li goes into great detail on how spending time in the forest and experiencing it through all our senses is vital for our well-being. Forest bathing comes from the Japanese shinrin (forest)-yoku(bath), “bathing in the forest atmosphere.” The book talks about the forests of Japan and its culture of reverence and worship of nature.
It tells us how we can practice shinrin-yoku, it’s benefits for the mind and body and how science backs what we instinctively know: we are happier, less stressed, sleep better and have stronger immunity when we make being in, and engaging with, nature a regular practice. It’s a beautiful book and I am looking forward to bringing home a physical copy from the library (now that libraries have also opened).
While I was reading this book, I had a conversation with a family member that got me thinking about how we select the books we want to read. I’m usually drawn to this type of book. Like for many others, being in nature, whether it’s in a forest or standing in front of the ocean, is a mystical experience for me. You could say I am part of the target audience for this book. When I borrowed the ebook from the library, I chose the book knowing, consciously or unconsciously, that it would affirm what I already knew: being in nature is an awesome, health-boosting practice. When we choose books, especially non-fiction, are we looking for books that will agree with our opinions? While it may not matter in this case, it was also a reminder that I have to be mindful of a covert selection bias and be more alert/engaged as to why I’m choosing a particular book. How do you choose the books you read?
Interesting related article from the Yale School Of Forestry And Environmental Studies: How immersion in nature benefits your health. Additionally, if you liked this post, you may want to read my series of posts on Judge A Book By Its Cover.
Take care, and see you tomorrow.