Published: Aster, a division of Octopus Publishing Group Ltd, 2018
Book review by Stefanie Rudolph
Lately, mention of “forest bathing” increasingly pops up in the media. As with so many health and wellbeing trends, it hails from Asia but unlike others the concept of Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” is a fairly new one. In fact, the term was only coined in 1982 by the Director of the Japanese Forestry Agency and originally was more of a marketing exercise to entice the population into visiting the many beautiful forests of Japan. Since then, however, serious research has looked into the many benefits of being in nature which most people intuitively feel. Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, author of the book reviewed here, was among the first of these scientists.
In “Shinrin-yoku. The Japanese Way of Forest Bathing for Health and Relaxation” he explains the concept, its practice and the research behind what has become a wide-spread preventative medicine in Japan and South Korea already but is catching on in other parts of the world, too. Right at the start he explains that the term “forest bathing” is used “in a similar way to ‘sun bathing’ and ‘sea bathing’. You don’t literally take a bath, but you do bathe in the environment of the forest, using all your senses to experience nature up close.” In practice, this usually means walking without hurry or even just sitting in the woods. As becomes evident however, the concept he proposes in this book is not as limited as this may first sound but is closer to what we would consider to be nature therapy.
While the author starts with the benefits of the forest environment he soon ventures to other forms of contact with nature. Shinrin-yoku as practiced in Japan is revealed to include various other elements as well: from aroma workshops to horse riding and dog therapy, star gazing, Nordic Walking, hammock time, meditation and yoga, cherry blossom and autumn foliage viewings and even musical concerts in the woods – all meant to aid the aim of engaging as many senses as possible and being truly “present in the moment” during the sessions.
In fact, his research has extended as far as considering the effects of looking at a bouquet of cut flowers or a pot plant or smelling naturally dried wood (as opposed to treated wood). More specifically, he has examined their calming effects on the human body and mind which may or may not lead to physiological relaxation and immune function recovery. This, of course, in turn can help prevent illnesses and thus reduce the strain on a country’s health services.
The book is very beautiful to look at: there are somewhat dreamy photographs of forest situations or individual trees and details appear on the wide margin of almost every single page. In the UK, the publisher is Octopus Publishing Group-imprint Aster which specializes in wellbeing/ wellness titles. There are inspirational quotes and occasionally bullet points. The book appears to be geared towards the general public, much like a self-help title.
Somewhat odd, then, sits the last but one chapter in which five research experiments the author conceived and conducted (and which mainly establish the scientific credentials of forest therapy as a preventative medicine) are explained in much detail. There is emphasis on methodology and statistical results that are less likely to interest the wider public.
In the brief last chapter, “The Future of Forest Therapy Research”, Yoshifumi Miyazaki heaps high praise on Florence William’s book “The Nature Fix” which he calls “essential reading for anyone wishing to understand current global trends in forest therapy research” (and nature therapy in general, one may add).
His own book then, we may view as a good means to spread the message of nature therapy to a wider general public. I could imagine a practitioner recommending it to his or her patient so they will understand better what nature therapy is about and how they can carry the benefits into their everyday life. On account of the science included in the book it is likely to work especially well with people who are – like the author of this review – inclined to be sceptical about approaches that to them seem “esoteric”.
On a more general note: I slightly worry that forest bathing might be hijacked like so many other Eastern trends and philosophies – simplified, commodified, commercialized, the latest bandwagon to be jumped on – before it has time to establish itself as a serious, credible form of therapy in our Western culture and in the process possibly discrediting any form of nature therapy in the eyes of many as just another fad. But despite the perhaps “lightweight” outward appearance of this book that is hardly something Yoshifumi Miyazaki can be blamed for, indeed with his research he has done much to counter this accusation.
Outside Time combines personal narrative with social history to trace the rise, fall and tentative revival of prison farming and horticulture programs. Outside Time offers insight into a side of prisons often overlooked – agricultural and gardening work programs – from the perspective of those who ran them.
Written by Hannah Wright, an environmental psychologist and the daughter of a prison farm manager, Outside Time calls for the expansion of horticulture programs under the banner of sustainability. With prisons self-sufficient in food until twenty years ago, Hannah argues for the value of this work to be more widely recognised as a means to rehabilitate and humanize.
Outside Time is a detailed account of a little-known history that policymakers, practitioners and scholars will find intriguing. Printed at HMP Coldingley, Outside Time is available to order direct from the author at www.hanwrights.com, from bookshops or Amazon.co.uk.
‘This book is an unexpected pleasure - well-written, fascinating and full of heart. But above all it’s a vital testament to the extraordinary power of gardening and growing food to heal broken lives.’
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, food campaigner
‘A gem of a book: a history of, tribute to, and eulogy for prison horticulture and agriculture.’
Alison Liebling, Professor of Criminology, Cambridge University
‘A lesson to all of us about reintroducing ourselves to the land and connecting to nature…a powerful reminder that the past has lessons to teach the future.’
Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project
By Stefanie Rudolph (blogging at www.lifeinplants.com , where a longer version of this first appeared)
We all need our regular fix of nature. It’s just the dosage, or perhaps the effective dose, which may vary slightly. Florence Williams, in her book the Nature Fix. Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative backs up with research what most people will long have felt to be true. Indeed, as she points out with a look back into history, people have sung the praise of nature and harnessed its powers to clear the mind and provide inspiration for thousands of years.
But for the first time ever more people now live in cities than in rural areas. What consequences does that have for Homo sapiens? Does it have any at all? And if so, should we be worried? Should we make any changes to our ways of life, our urban environments to make amends? Does it really matter we left behind “life in the woods”, so to speak, and our ancestors’ connection with nature? Is it just a matter of getting used to the urban, with nature just a romantic notion and not really essential to the day-to-day life – apart from providing food, oxygen and the like, of course – for most of us?
Referencing Richard Louv and what he termed nature deficit disorder, the thesis of Williams’ book is: “We don’t experience natural environments enough [anymore] to realize how restored they can make us feel, nor are we aware that they make us healthier, more creative, more empathic and more apt to engage with the world and each other."
The publication by Natural England last month, of 'Good practice in social prescribing for mental health: the role of nature-based interventions' will be of particular interest to anyone working in mental health care.
We include a link to the publication and to an earlier Natural England report 'A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care' upon which the new research was built.
Self-help healthcare in the seventeenth-century: new book
What sort of household medicine was available in seventeenth-century England? A newly published book draws on original archives to show the extent of self-help used by families and explores their favourite medicinal remedies, some purchased and others made up from recipes. The author, Anne Stobart, is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Exeter, UK and previously taught herbal medicine at Middlesex University, London. Anne helps to coordinate the Herbal History Research Network which links up researchers in the history of herbal medicine. She also contributes to the Recipes Hypotheses Project which brings together an international group of scholars writing on the history of recipes.
Drawing on previously unpublished household papers, ranging from recipes to household accounts and letters, this book is fully referenced and provides an excellent source for researchers interested in the history of domestic medicine. Included are details of the extensive range of medicinal ingredients available to make up remedies, and discussion of how these ingredients were obtained, whether from the apothecary, garden or hedgerow. The use of food or 'kitchen physick' for health is covered, alongside treatments for children and those with chronic complaints. Some unexpected findings challenge previous assumptions about how women were involved in providing healthcare for their families and the local neighbourhood. This book helps us to better understand how people thought about illness in the seventeenth century and what they did to try and direct their medical treatment through self-help or the use of physicians.
Stobart, Anne. Household Medicine in Seventeenth-Century England. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
An independent report, commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme, on the benefits of gardens and gardening for health.
Design for Healing Spaces - Therapeutic Gardens by Daniel Winterbottom and Amy Wagenfeld (Timber Press 2015)
Reviewed by Michael Westley C.M.L.I.
This book is written & edited by two friends & colleagues with whom I write & publish in the US. - Landscape Architect, Daniel Winterbottom and Occupational Therapist, Amy Wagenfeld. The exciting possibilities of trans-disciplinary creative endeavor drive our collaborations. That same spirit created the thoughtful insight behind the text of this book, whose premise is that responsive and intentional design should arise from a comprehensive ‘briefing’ process in which all ‘actors’ and ‘stakeholders’ voices are heard and responded.
I provided a case study on Westley Design’s ‘Dolphin House’ project, together with images and text of our other projects to illustrate specific concepts regarding therapeutic garden design. The objective was also to explore and describe the value of using an inter-professional design approach to placemaking that meets the needs of all users regardless of ability.
Published in Allergy Today, 2016
Shenagh Hume has over 20 years’ experience as a registered nurse specialising in asthma and allergy. Shenagh is also a graduate in Garden Design from Capel Manor and now uses her unique experience to advise on allergies in gardens and public places. Her article Pollen: Friend or Foe discusses the part played by pollen in the increase of allergy, especially in urban areas.
For those who suffer from allergies, the prospect of spending a sunny afternoon in the garden can be far from pleasurable. As the factsheet produced by Allergy UK advises, while allergies cannot be cured, there are many ways to reduce symptoms and to avoid the triggers.
For further information, please see the Allergy UK website.
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