The Wall Street Journal Magazine interviewed Dr. Qing Li on the topic of Forest Bathing

Last Updated:Feb 5, 2020

Here and below is the article published by the Wall Street Journal Magazine (WSJ) on the topic of Forest Bathing.

Forest Bathing Is Fashion’s Way to Find Calm

How celebrity and influencer evangelists for the Japanese art of tree-hugging are powering it to new heights

When shoe and accessory designer Aurora James was nine years old, she walked deep into a forest with her mother before they broke into separate areas to meditate. It was her first time forest bathing. Over the years, communing with nature “made all of my teenage problems seem much more temporary and fleeting,” James, 35, writes over email. “I have only just recently heard of forest bathing, but I’ve been doing it my entire life.”

The practice of shinrin-yoku ( isn’t new—the Japanese government has spent millions funding research and promotion of it, and early adopters like Justin Bieber and Gwyneth Paltrow solidified its spread to Hollywood. But a sudden spate of social-media influencers, fashion designers and wellness gurus offering immersive forest-bathing experiences, classes or even forest-bathing rental properties are expanding the trend.

“It’s not hiking where you’re getting from point A to point B,” says Brooke Mellen, 41, who leads forest-bathing experiences in New York’s Central Park. “You can spend up to two or four hours only walking through one mile of forest. It’s very slow and mindful.”

Many guided experiences, Mellen’s included, involve choosing a tree you feel the most drawn to and spending time connecting with it. Practitioners can sit or stand near the tree they’ve chosen, meditating, doing yoga or walking. One might hug the tree, lay on a platform and look at the forest or connect with the tree in any other way they intuit is best, focusing on opening their senses to note what they see, smell, hear and feel. For the uninitiated, it’s useful to know that despite its name, forest bathing doesn’t involve water.

Mellen used to work in fine art insurance claims and as the risk manager at Sotheby’s. During those years, she would take solo trips to places like the Gálapagos, Peru or Iceland to escape to nature. “I was doing these sorts of things to help me deal with the stress of having billions of dollars that I was in charge of weighing on my shoulders,” she says. “[Then] I found forest bathing. It helps me more than anything else.”

Reading Forest Bathing (, a book by expert Dr. Qing Li, inspired Mellen to travel to both Japan and Australia for separate forest therapy certifications. Back home in June, she founded Cultured Forest, which offers guided forest bathing sessions in Central Park that were recently highlighted in Vogue. She begins each session with a meditation and the guided relaxation process yoga nidra in order for practitioners to notice all parts of their bodies. They do exercises to connect with a tree and walk in an area of Central Park that’s full of big rocks and another with waterfalls. She closes with a tea ceremony.

“[My clients and I] really talk about the actual concrete health benefits from connecting to nature,” says Daphne Javitch, 39, a nutritionist who runs the Instagram account Doing Well. A paper published in the online journal Scientific Reports last year found two hours per week to be the optimal amount of time to spend in nature in order to reap health benefits. Adherents of forest bathing also point to studies that show it improves sleep duration and lowers blood pressure, heart rate and stress.

Sarah Becker, 46, tried it for the first time about three years ago. Becker, an aesthetician and founder of a skincare studio, went with Forest Bathing Club founder Julia Plevin into the Presidio, a national park in San Francisco, the city where they’re both based. With about a dozen others, she walked barefoot and silently into the forest and found a tree.

“We stood or sat by the tree and we asked its permission to touch or connect with it,” she says. “It was really beautiful.”

The two-hour experience also included choosing something from the forest floor that resonated with her to share with the group, meditation and tea. Becker has been forest bathing ever since.

“After forest bathing, I feel clean,” says Becker, whose practice is now mostly self-led. “I feel like any negativity that I might have been holding has been neutralized. It really changes my perspective.”

Luxury hotels and retreat centers like Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee and Kripalu in Stockbridge, Massachusetts also offer forest bathing experiences. Earlier this year, James spent eight days at the personal growth retreat center Hoffman Institute in St. Helena, California, disconnecting from the internet, television and reading material. She found her favorite tree in the 450-acre retreat site White Sulphur Springs and spent time with it daily.
Lacy Ann Phillips, 34, is the founder of To Be Magnetic, a company that aims to help customers achieve their goals through its self-motivating workshops. In 2019, she opened The Forest House in Mariposa, CA, at the gateway to Yosemite National Park. Available to rent on Airbnb, the house is decorated in calming neutrals and filled with objects “found and foraged.” Guests are encouraged to spend their days doing self-guided retreats, and with two outdoor showers hugging a cedar tree and two side-by-side clawfoot, outdoor bathtubs, guests can literally bathe in the forest.

The house’s online shop features Dr. Li’s book in addition to walking sticks, a meditation candle and house-related products like a $4,700 coffee table. Phillips is currently planning a second location in Scotland.
“The whole goal is to strip away any noise, pollution, sound pollution, scent pollution, light pollution so that you can get back to your most naked, authentic self,” says Phillips. “The whole purpose of my work is to get back into your totally authentic, pre-programmed self.”

(Reported by Qing Li)

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