It’s not nearly as woo woo as it may sound. The Japanese even have a term for it: Shinrin-yoku (loosely translated as, taking in the forest through our senses). Which, in turn, leads us to our sixth sense– a state of mind called, well-being.
Time magazine published an article about it, and Dr. Qing Li published a book entitled, FOREST BATHING: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. As a matter of fact, last month the PBS re-published a piece written by Jim Robbins (originally published in theYale Environment 360) entitled, “How Immersing Yourself in Nature Benefits Your Health.”
Intuitively, we all know this is true, but are there any scientific or academic studies to back it up? To draw from the cited PBS article, “This subject was virtually ignored by the academic world. I could find 60 studies that were good studies. Now it’s approaching and about to pass 1,000 studies, and they point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.”
“Have-to-have”, as in necessary for our physical and emotional well-being (terms derived from the Report of The National Task Force for Lawyer Well-Being). Drawing again from the subject PBS article, “We have entered the urban century, with two-thirds of humanity projected to be living in cities by 2050…. There is an awakening underway today to many of the values of nature, and the risks and costs of its loss. New work can help inform investments in livability and sustainability of the world’s cities”.
Mindfulness and meditation are naturally aligned (pun intended) with the benefits of nature — they go hand in glove. Anecdotally, that alignment is best evidenced by the popularity of the meditation class I’ve been leading with a friend at the Chicago Botanic Garden. And what (you may ask) does any of that have to do with lawyer well-being? Well, for me, it’s about sustainability — not in the environmental sense, but rather, in the human sense.
Spending time in nature is obviously different for those of us who live in a city, and those of us who live in rural areas. It’s obviously more difficult for those of us who live in the geographically challenged Midwest, than our friends who live in or near mountains, the desert, or the shore. But the most significant difference is the way in which we address those challenges, which is something that us lawyers are trained to excel in.
I had a roommate in college whose parents always paid for him to have dinner at a restaurant on Sunday nights when the cafeteria was closed. In response to the grief that the rest of us would (jealously) give him he’ would say, “If you don’t take care of yourself, who else will?”. In hindsight, I think I now understand much better, what I failed to understand then.
Much like my old roommate needed to take care of himself, we lawyers need to begin taking better care of ourselves. Mindfulness, meditation, and some creative (or actual) forest bathing would be a great way to start!