Trees of Life
“Trees emit phytoncides, an essential oil that boosts immunity and can help prevent cancer,” says Plevin, a design strategist who, in 2016, became one of the foremost promulgators of forest bathing in the United States. “One minute of looking up at a tree will increase your sense of awe, but 15 minutes of being in the forest will give you an immunity boost that lasts up to two weeks.”
Research by Tokyo physician Qing Li, another forest bathing acolyte, shows that touching trees, deep-breathing arboreal air, dipping a hand into a stream, or lying among flora also cuts blood pressure, improves sleep, and accelerates recovery from surgery or illness.
The ritual has helped Plevin navigate her own anxiety and depression: “It has been my healing that I now share with others,” she says. The history major recently relocated from San Francisco to Green Springs, Oregon, inside the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, where she describes her life as a perpetual bath among mixed conifer and white fir forests.
Plevin, who enrolled at Dartmouth in large part because of the Outing Club, is the author of The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World (Ten Speed Press, 2019). She leads groups—up to 60 strong—on monthly saunters into primeval worlds. (Interested? Visit forestbathing.club.)
“If we go from our homes to our cars to our offices to our workouts and then to dinner, we can spend days or weeks or months without ever making contact with the surface of the earth,” says Plevin.
Forest bathers, she notes, should indulge their five senses and soak in the tree energy. “Forest bathing isn’t like a 10-mile hike or a calorie buster,” says Plevin. “It’s about slowing down and being in the moment with your senses.”