Episode 85: Punk1806, Tara Tiger Brown, Forrest Lover & PhD Candidate, UBC
Timestamp: 15:04 – 24:22
Summary of the Conversation
Forest bathing, a concept originating from Japan in the early 1980s, was introduced by the director of the Forest Agency. This idea emerged during significant urbanization, with young people migrating from rural areas to cities. This shift led to increased stress levels, particularly among office workers, prompting a search for natural solutions.
Researchers, including a Soviet chemist and a Japanese professor, explored the role of biogenic volatile organic compounds, like terpenes, emitted by trees. These compounds, used by trees for protection and communication, were theorized to offer health benefits to humans.
The concept of forest bathing is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history. Humans, having evolved over millions of years, are biologically tuned to natural environments, unlike the artificial, built environments we often find ourselves in today. Forest bathing involves immersing oneself in nature, engaging all senses – from breathing the air and touching plants to observing natural patterns and listening to the sounds of nature.
Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, environmental psychologists from the 1980s, developed the Attention Restoration Theory, which suggests that natural environments can help reduce mental fatigue. This theory points to ‘Soft Fascination’ – our brain’s effortless processing of natural patterns like leaves, branches, or flowing water, which provides a restorative break from the intense focus required in our daily lives.
Being in nature not only alleviates mental fatigue but also reduces stress. Built environments with noise, air, and light pollution can elevate cortisol levels, leading to constant stress. In contrast, natural settings can lower stress and improve health markers like blood pressure.
While individual responses vary based on health, geographic location, culture, and spirituality, the general principle holds. Even brief interactions with nature, such as looking out a window or viewing nature photographs, can be beneficial. However, the full multisensory experience of being outdoors is unmatched.
When choosing a natural environment for forest bathing, safety and accessibility are paramount. Regular, short visits are more beneficial than infrequent, long sessions. Variety in these natural settings is also important to prevent habituation and to keep the environment engaging.
My research aims to create dynamic park brochures considering various environmental attributes, including seasonal changes and weather conditions like wildfire smoke. As we face more extreme weather events due to climate change, indoor strategies for connecting with nature become equally important.
The ideal natural setting for forest bathing combines safety, accessibility, biodiversity, and water features. Such environments allow for relaxation and a much-needed break from the stresses of modern life.