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The definitive guide to the therapeutic Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or the art and science of how trees can promote health and happiness
Notice how a tree sways in the wind. Run your hands over its bark. Take in its citrusy scent. As a society we suffer from nature deficit disorder, but studies have shown that spending mindful, intentional time around trees--what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing--can promote health and happiness.
In this beautiful book--featuring more than 100 color photographs from forests around the world, including the forest therapy trails that criss-cross Japan--Dr. Qing Li, the world's foremost expert in forest medicine, shows how forest bathing can reduce your stress levels and blood pressure, strengthen your immune and cardiovascular systems, boost your energy, mood, creativity, and concentration, and even help you lose weight and live longer.
Once you've discovered the healing power of trees, you can lose yourself in the beauty of your surroundings, leave everyday stress behind, and reach a place of greater calm and wellness.
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Dr. Qing Li is the world's foremost expert in forest medicine. A medical doctor at Tokyo's Nippon Medical School, he has been a visiting fellow at the Stanford University School of Medicine and is a founding member and chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, a leading member of the Task Force of Forests and Human Health, and the vice president and secretary general of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
We all know how good being in nature can make us feel. We have known it for millennia. The sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air – these things give us a sense of comfort. They ease our stress and worry, help us to relax and to think more clearly. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.
We know this deep in our bones. It is like an intuition, or an instinct, a feeling that is sometimes hard to describe. In Japanese, we have a word for those feelings that are too deep for words: yu-gen. Yu-gen gives us a profound sense of the beauty and mystery of the universe. It is about this world but suggests something beyond it. The playwright Zeami Motokiyo describes it as the ‘subtle shadows of bamboo on bamboo’, the feeling you get when you ‘watch the sun sink behind a flower-clad hill’ or ‘when you wander in a huge forest without thought of return’.
I feel this way when I am in nature. I think of my childhood in a small village. I remember the green poplar forests in spring and summer and the yellow leaves in autumn. I recall the games of hide and seek I played in the trees with my friends and the animals we used to find, like rabbits and foxes, Chinese hamsters and squirrels. There was a beautiful apricot forest in my village which flowered pink all through April. I can still remember the taste of the apricots we harvested in the autumn.
But what exactly is this feeling that is so hard to put into words? What lies behind it? How does nature make us feel this way? I am a scientist, not a poet. And I have been investigating the science behind that feeling for many years. I want to know why we feel so much better when we are in nature. What is this secret power of trees that makes us so much healthier and happier? Why is it that we feel less stressed and have more energy just by walking in the forest? Some people study forests. Some people study medicine. I study forest medicine to find out all the ways in which walking in the forest can improve our well-being.
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