The Effective Wellness Tool That's Right on Your Doorstep

I've long extolled the benefits of a little greenery to anyone who would listen. Having grown up in rural Somerset (although I wasn't so keen on the place back then), I can talk at length about how the sight of a rolling hill can elevate the spirit, or how carving a path right through the centre of an empty green field can elevate a mood. I've even had to fill my inner London flat with indoor plants and a green sofa to try and replicate the views from my childhood bedroom. Yes, I love the buzz of the city, but when I'm looking to recalibrate, it's always the countryside I come crawling back to.

Seemingly, I'm not alone, as a growing number of city dwellers wholeheartedly embrace the latest wellness trend: forest bathing. Switching stuffy yoga halls and dark meditation studios for The Great Outdoors, this new movement sees us returning to nature for our mindfulness fix. “Spending time in nature is proven to help you relax, and in an age where stress has become an epidemic, this is invaluable," claims Qing Li, forest bathing expert and author of Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing.

Hailing from Japan, forest bathing, or as it's known there, shinrin-yoku, isn't so much a fad-dy weekend pursuit—it's far more embedded in the lifestyle, and has been for years. Simply speaking, it's about spending more time in nature—namely, forests—to (literally) breathe in the benefits the outside world can have on our health. I see you raising a skeptical brow—yes, it really is just a fancy way of packaging up going for a walk in the countryside, but as soon as you hear the studies and benefits, your reservations might disappear.

I can't promise my motive wasn't to build up more of a convincing case to persuade my friends that a walking holding might actually be fun, but I spoke to Li to find out exactly what benefits forest bathing pose to our physical and mental health, as well as how to take part if your proximity to nature is somewhat limited.