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Forest therapy is infiltrating our bathrooms so here's how to experience the great outdoors, inside

Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Forest therapy is a term lots of us have heard of at this point. But shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing” is a concept that’s been appreciated in Japan for generations. There, immersing yourself in nature and taking time to soak in the therapeutic and revitalising atmosphere of the forest, for the benefit of your physical and mental health, is a priority.

Likewise, time spent outdoors is a cherished part of Scandinavian culture, where they even have a word – friluftsliv – dedicated to the act of getting outdoors in the open air. So much so that in some cases, the time is built into the working week by employers.

Immersing ourselves in nature is a salve for the soul and an essential change of scenery (especially after such a long time spent inside). Still, until recently, it's been less of a cultural imperative.

"Mother Nature is getting her moment in the sun-dappled spotlight,” Sarah Ivens told GLAMOUR UK. “Research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that being exposed to restorative environments such as a forest, lake, or beach restores mental energy. Natural beauty inspires feelings of awe which gives a secondary brain boost. Studies even prove how simply looking at pictures of nature increases our positive thinking (so think about switching the lock screen photo on your phone to a favourite nature photo from a previous holiday),” she says.

To double down on the effects, beauty brands have been tapping into the world of wellness, and we've seen a boom in products developed to replicate the impact that nature can have on our senses, even when we're not outside.

Undeniably, nothing can beat the real thing. However, numerous studies have shown the intrinsic link between scent and memory. It’s the whole concept behind aromatherapy. “The sense of smell plays an important role in the physiological effects of mood, stress, and working capacity,” a 2016 study confirms. A physical walk through the woods will unite all your senses – touch, sight, sound, taste and smell – but conjuring up the scent alone can help trigger memories of the other four (thereby stimulating the feelings of clarity and relaxation brought about by those memories). And in isolation, natural scents like sandalwood have been found to have a calming effect on our mood.

Beauty brands have spent the last few years working to recreate those scents to access in our own homes, irrespective of the seasons.

“Our need for a year-round ‘green prescription’ was the inspiration behind the Aromatherapy Associates’ Forest Therapy collection,” explains Sarah. “The Bath & Shower Oil, £49, and Wellness Mist, £23, each contains 22 of nature’s most healing ingredients, including Pink Pepper, which is known to help with respiratory health and has an uplifting effect on our wellbeing; Juniper Berry, which has a cleansing effect on the mind and soul; and Mediterranean Cypress, which helps to instil an overall sense of calm. Those powerful phytoncides allow you to bring the outdoors into your home, whatever's going on outside.” Add it to your bath for an ahhh-moment, or trickle it on during a shower.

Likewise, Jo Malone's English Oak and Hazelnut Cologne, was inspired by woodland strolls through crunchy autumn leaves. Notes of fresh green hazelnut and roasted oak help to set the scene. And, at The White Company, there's a range of oil diffuser scents that puff clouds of natural-smelling notes into the room, such as Wild Mint, Wild Blackberry, Geranium Leaf and Spring (which blends honeysuckle, rose and cut grass).

Influenced by Japan and China, body care brand Rituals routinely features woods like cedar and pine. My favourite, The Ritual of Mehr scent with sweet orange and cedarwood, feels deliciously comforting and offers up candles, dry oils, foaming shower gels and fragrant reed diffusers. The Ritual of Jing is a light floral scent with a musky wood undertone. The idea behind the range, which aims to help promote calmness, stillness and sanctuary in a fragrance that helps you drift off to sleep, feels particularly necessary today.

Part of the Scandinavian H&M family, Arket has a small but perfectly curated edit of body care (including hand wash, hand balm, body wash and body cream) in its earthy staple scents Vetiver, Oakmoss, Rosemary and Geranium. Meanwhile, the nordic brand Skandinavisk has a collection of candles, reed diffusers and body care that beautifully capture the nature of the great outdoors. Robust Skog is inspired by the Boreal forests that stretch through Sweden, Norway and Finland (notes of spruce, birch and pine), while Ro depicts crumpled leaves and ambered woods.

Meanwhile, The Nue Co just launched Forest Lungs, which is designed to support the reduction of everyday stress through a unique blend of science and nature. The unisex anti-stress 'fragrance supplement' delivers the healing effects of nature to the body in a couple of spritzes. Specifically, it contains phytoncides (compounds emitted from trees) which are believed to play an essential role in plant immunity. Scientific research shows that phytoncides —once inhaled — significantly increase levels of natural killer cells (which suppress pathogens and virally infected cells) in the human immune system. Phytoncides are also credited for the positive health benefits associated with forest bathing, namely stress reduction, anxiety reduction and boosting the parasympathetic (rest) nervous system. Breathe it all in.

So for the days you can't get us or need an extra boost, you can conjure the fresh, uplifting scent of a stroll through the trees or a bracing march along the coast from inside your home. It may not be the real deal, but as back-ups go, a frothy, forest-smelling bubble bath is not a bad alternative.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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