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'Forest Bathing' Saved Her Life, Now She's Teaching Others

March 14, 2019 1:31 p.m.

GUEST: Julia Plevin, author, “The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World”

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Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

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Most of us suffer from a nature deficit spending time outdoors surrounded by trees plants and living things is usually a low priority. We've got too much to do. No time to waste just sitting in the grass. But people engaged in the concept of forest bathing don't see it as time wasted. The Japanese term is Shinrikyo coup and it's credited with helping maintain health and wellness. In fact my next guest says the practice saved her life. Joining me is Julia plebian author of the healing magic of forest bathing finding calm creativity and connection in the natural world.

And Julia welcome to the program. Thank you Maureen. So glad to be here. The term forest bathing is kind of confusing. It doesn't necessarily mean stripping down and finding a pond in the woods. So what does it mean.

Yeah. It means bathing in the forest atmosphere. It's like a sound bath is what people you know. People now understand sound bathing.

So it's another form of bathing of bait just bathing in the atmosphere of soaking it in exactly is forest bathing different from just being out in nature.

It is just being out in nature. But for me it comes with the intention and that is the intention to slow down to awaken your senses and to go there knowing the healing benefits of nature.

Does this practice of forest bathing originate in Japan.

Yes. The term as you mentioned Shinrikyo KU forest bathing comes from Japan. And that was in the 1980s when they did all of this research to scientifically prove the benefits of getting to nature. One of the main things that they study where the fighting sites which are these essential oils that trees emit that boost our natural killer cells and K cells and lower stress cortisol and can even be preventative for things like cancer.

So there's actually a physically healthy side to being in nature in the forest.

Yet there's a lot of evidence which is really cool. It's something that you know our souls know that we feel better in nature writers have been writing about so many different you know traditional cultures understand and now there's all this science that supports it. There's even a study that shows that just 15 minutes of being in the forest has an immune boost that will last up to 30 days.

Wow. So before this was a book it was your meetup. Yes. Tell us what led you to create the forest bathing club meetup.

Yes so I always loved nature. It wasn't until I was going to design school in New York City that I realized how much in effect the lack of nature was having on me and my graduate thesis became all about the health effects of being disconnected from nature which is a term that Glenn Albrecht a researcher in Australia calls psycho to eradicate. And one of the ways to heal this is to reconnect to nature. And so I came across this term forest bathing like wow I need that. And I wanted to see if anyone else also did.

So I just put up a meet up you know as a designer always like what is the way I can prototype this. See this is the need that is for other people too. And so I put up a page on meet up and I hadn't even hosted anything. People started to join and then a friend nudged mean. He was like You know you really ought to host the meetup. So I put something on the schedule the first time I had anything on the schedule a reporter from Business Insider reached out to me asking if she could write an article about it.

And you know that was one of those moments when I realized that I had tapped into something bigger and something that was a real deep desire for people.

And you write in your book that doing this sort of saved your life. What do you mean by that.

Yeah. So I had been dealing with chronic illness for probably about a decade from having Lyme disease then being on a bunch of different antibiotics and all of the things that that then cause stomach issues anxiety depression just a lot of these health issues that we associate with modern life and just kind of like you know going going. Trying to always keep up like going to the right grad school trying to get a job always just on this train and finally like my body was sick and I couldn't get a job and I just didn't know what to do anymore.

And it was in a moment of not knowing what to do that I turned to nature. A lot of people you know when there's lot of sorrow they go to nature in nature. You know mother earth she holds us she supports us. And so in turning to nature I found healing. And then I realized that this is healing that other people can also experience.

This is the healing magic of forest bathing your book is sort of a how to book.

So what kind of how to advice do you give for forest bathing I try to give the overall structure of how to go into the forest with this intention and also doesn't even have to be a forest so you can do. You can experience the healing benefits in a local park in your backyard by the beach in the desert. You know there's so many different elements of nature that are healing us. The trees there's one part but there's so much else. Yeah. So it's going in with an intention which is really important and is different invitations and everything's an invitation because unlike different practices where you have to learn how to do something this is really an unlearning and it's a remembering.

Like when we're kids we don't have to learn how to be in nature we just kind of knew. So it's remembering what that feels like to just go and to follow your heart and to be curious and to you know listen to the birds and feel the sun and just you know be in your human body in your experience.

And once you are out in nature as you say you recommend certain rituals and invitations that might sound a little woo woo. You know even to people who believe in the benefits of nature. How do you explain the magical side of forest bathing.

That's a really great question. I think the magic is what people discover for themselves where we're at right now which is really cool. We have a lot of science. Like there's a study that shows that just one minute of looking up at a tree increases sense of all and a sense of all leads to things like greater collaboration and generosity. You know that feeling of oneness that people experience you can experience from being out in nature. It drops us into our hearts. So everything in nature connects through these electromagnetic fields and we also have that electromagnet magnetic current and it goes through our human heart.

And so there's there's the science that's happening and then there's the woo woo and the spirituality that happens on top of it that you know you can choose how much tone that up or tone that down you say we need forest bathing now more than ever why do you think that is. I believe that we're at a moment on planet earth where what we can't go on living how we have been living extracting resources from the earth and a lot of the illness in society also comes from our disconnection from nature. So for us bathing is a practice of reconnecting to nature.

And when we reconnect is when we are able to heal ourselves and then heal the Earth also.

Julia thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us of course. My pleasure. Julia Levin we'll be speaking about her book The Healing magic of forest bathing finding calm creativity and connection in the natural world.

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