The average American now spends 93 percent of their life inside: 87 percent enclosed in buildings and 6 percent in a vehicle. Since the 1980s, there has been a 20 percent decline in visits to U.S. national parks and a cultural shift away from nature-based recreation in favor of things like the indoor screen time. In 2008, the world reached the tipping point where more people were living in urban areas than outside of them.
These sobering statistics have led author and nature advocate Richard Louv to coin the term Nature Deficit Disorder. The phrase speaks to how our alienation from nature has resulted in the diminished use of our senses, created attention difficulties, and ultimately coincided with higher rates of illness. All of this points to the fact that time in nature, and forest bathing in particular, is more important now than ever before.
Today, the Japanese government officially recognizes Shinrin-yoku as a healthful practice and has designated part of its forestland as forest therapy grounds. And you don't have to head to Japan to participate in the healing practice (although if you do, you can join me in Japan later this year!). Forest bathing clubs are now popping up around the United States, and there are plenty of ways to commune with nature on your own time. Here are a few techniques to keep in mind as you do it.