Nature Deficit

— vitamin-tree

forests get in there

I came across The Japanese Art and Science of Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. What is forest bathing? How do I practice?

Forest bathing is hanging out in the forest for at least 2 hours. You could do anything, but the best way is to take in nature through the senses, smell the trees, touch the branches, moss, listen to the birds, the rustle of leaves. The book is more of a coffee table book with lots of pictures, white space and large text. Without much hard evidence, the book infers that forests may cure (or prevent) ailments commonly complained about: cancer, depression, sleeplessness.

Of course being in nature is healthier but the book doesn’t provide much definitive evidence. While I was disappointed by the lack of science, the book provided new concepts on how to enjoy nature thoughtfully.

I. Tsukimi, moon viewing

The harvest moon was up in the sky a few days ago and it was glorious. I can see why people historically held parties in castles in Japan just to view the moon.

I’m also reminded how fascinating the moon can be. Back when I was young, Apollo 13 was a hit movie. Space Camp was more desirable than visiting Disneyworld. My family spent a lot of time driving between Chicago and Springfield, Illinois to visit relatives. I had a lot of time to stare at the moon over fields of corn.

The moon has always been a marvel and I continue to enjoy looking at it when I do see it today. Although it gives me incredible joy, I don’t spend time trying to seek this experience. Perhaps, like forest bathing, I need to work it into my life. Find the next clear night, find a good spot to look at the moon. These are not easy tasks.

II. Being Outside

“Americans spend 93% of their time indoors”

93% seems like an excessive amount of time indoors and I do spend approximately that amount of time. Conscious of the time spent inside, I went out for a walk yesterday. Now I’m sitting under a tree on my patio. I always feel physically better outside–why am I not out as much? (Too lazy?)

III. Technostress

In 1984, the term technostress was used to describe unhealthy behavior around new technology. Now ‘technostress’ is just normal (not even stress).

Have you seen people’s posture? I sling my neck forward to bend over the phone. It takes too much work to lift my arm closer so I can scroll through reddit on my phone.

IV. Fractals

Throughout the book, author makes the claim that we, as humans, crave nature. It’s in our DNA to be around natural things because we are emerged from nature (aren’t we still part of nature?!). So, fractals found in nature are things that make us relax.

fractals on trees “Looking at natural fractal patterns can reduce our stress by as much as 60%.”

I’ve never heard of such a thing but while camping a few weeks ago, I was examining tree silhouettes at dusk. They can be amazingly perfect, more balanced symmetry than the spread out branches you’d find on a wall paper drawing. Perhaps there is something about fractals–there are so many mesmerizing youtube videos with infinite fractals to get lost in.

V. Going barefoot

It feels great to go barefoot. Not only on dirt and sand but on cement and different surfaces outside. Similar to moon watching, it’s an activity I deeply enjoy but don’t do. I don’t want to take off my socks! (Too much work!)

Perhaps these activities seem too basic. Not special enough for me to put energy towards.

‘Driving to a place to watch the moon?’ Isn’t there something on Netflix?’ It’s amazing to stare at the moon, to breath in fresh air at night but it’s also not exciting enough to inspire me to get out there. It’s like taking a shower–once I’m in it’s great but before…so difficult to get in.

It takes a lot of work to enjoy things I truly love. So I’m more often doing things I mediocre enjoy, like tv. There’s a payoff, energy is limited despite whether we have free time.

But in terms of health, I should start working to have fun.

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