TikTok Tuesday: We cut work for a #forestbathing experience

The term forest bathing actually originates from 1980s Japan, where the practice of shinrin-yoku became a popular antidote to the complicated demands of daily life.

Emma Jones 4 minute read May 3, 2022

If there’s one thing TikTokers love, it’s a good rebrand. Being self-centred becomes “being the main character;” being edgy, sexual or having a good clap back becomes spicy; pranks and vandalism become devious licks. Now, the platform is also embracing a rather wholesome re-brand: forest bathing, the art of fully embracing your time in nature.

On the TikTok platform, the hashtag #forestbathing has almost 12 million views and is full of TikTokers enjoying their time out in nature. Some encourage going barefoot to fully connect, another recites poetry and some turn to the forest to process major life events.

Regardless of the name or the method, the cognitive benefits of spending time in nature have been well documented and could be just the thing to help restore and rejuvenate. Just be careful if you’re going sans shoes.

No rubber duckies needed: How to take part in forest bathing

Forest bathing doesn’t actually involve water or soap at all. Instead, it refers to an immersive experience where you are to completely focus on the experience of being in nature.

Qing Li, medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School and author of Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, explained the experience of forest bathing in Time magazine:

“Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savouring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.”

The term forest bathing actually originates from 1980s Japan, where the practice of shinrin-yoku became a popular antidote to the complicated demands of daily life. Increasing use of the country’s forests also served a second purpose, according to National Geographic: the more people visit and care for the forests, the more likely they are to work to protect the natural environment.

Nature’s impact on mental health

Previous research indicates that spending time in nature improves performance on tasks that require working memory and creative thinking (cognitive flexibility). To a lesser extent, it may also improve attention spans.

But being out in nature isn’t just about better productivity. Research has shown that it also improves subjective well-being, improving mood and lending a general sense of purpose.

Spending time close to nature is also important for developing children. Research from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that children raised in “urban” environments, including close to roads, pollution, and houses with lead paint risks may be at a higher risk of experiencing “psychotic-like events.”

Too busy to get out of the city? Try this instead

Although wandering through a tranquil forest is no doubt preferable to anyone trying to recover from the daily grind, connecting with even the faintest slice of nature can help those too busy to get away.

One study from the Journal of Environmental Psychology found students who took a “micro break” looking at a green roof (a rooftop that has been planted with grass and flowers) performed better on dull, repetitive tasks than did students who took small breaks looking at a concrete rooftop.

We might not even need to see nature to reap the rewards. Research from the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review found that participants who listened to natural soundscapes like birds chirping, rainfall, ocean waves, or wind performed better on tasks requiring attention and memory than participants who listened to urban soundscapes.

Emma Jones is a multimedia editor with Healthing. You can reach her at emjones@postmedia.com or on Instagram and Twitter @jonesyjourn.

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