I AM HERETIC: BEN PAGE
“Forest Bathing with Ben Page”
Our newest plant-based perfume Dirty Hinoki is an herbal and ethereal functional fragrance centered around sustainably sourced Japanese hinoki wood, a magical essential oil with the proven ability to alleviate anxiety and depression. This clean fragrance is inspired by the wellness practice of Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, in which participants mindfully immerse themselves in nature. Forest bathing has been shown to improve mental and physical health. It aims to support the process of self-discovery and has been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower stress hormones, and improve concentration. Not only that, but phytoncides released by the trees can also boost the immune system.
For this launch we've taken a deep dive into forest bathing with Ben Page, a Forest Therapy Guide, global advocate for the practice, and the author of Healing Trees: A Pocket Guide to Forest Bathing. He is the founder of Shinrin Yoku LA and Integral Forest Bathing and has been guiding Forest Therapy walks since 2015, where he draws from the wisdom of the natural world, depth psychology, somatic theory, as well as Taoist and Zen philosophy. Ben has served as the Director of Training for the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs, and has trained hundreds of guides around the world. He's been featured in such publications as Women’s Health, USA TODAY, Good Morning America, The Washington Post, and WebMD. Ben is also a co-founder of The Open School, Southern California’s only free democratic school. He holds a B.A. in religious studies from Carleton College and an M.A. in human development and social change from Pacific Oaks College.
The video above is a short snippet from our conversation with Ben. Listen to the full podcast episode below to hear all about what Ben does and hopefully get inspired to connect with nature on a deeper level yourself.
ABOUT FOREST BATHING:
The practice of forest bathing has a wide range of interpretations as well as benefits. It can be done with specific health outcomes in mind, or as a way to simply feel happier. The work that Ben Page does as a forest bathing guide is to help people form an emotional connection to a place in nature. As Ben puts it “nature is just this incredibly trauma-informed space that helps us calm down, it boosts our immune system, all of these things that are validated by research. So as a guide, I don’t have to be worried about making that happen. What I’m interested in is how to make people fall in love with these places so that they want to spend a lot of time there.”
What is forest bathing?
Forest bathing doesn't involve actually taking a bath outside in the forest. Instead it’s a type of therapeutic experience that Ben describes as a double entendre. “The first meaning is literal, which is we're bathing in the phytoncide-rich atmosphere of the forest. You’re bathing in air that is saturated with these wonderful aloe chemicals. The second meaning is more metaphorical, which is it's like sunbathing. And this one I think helps people understand what I mean when I say this should be relaxing and you don't have to try hard, because most people that have gone sunbathing and understand this intuitively that it's just about feeling the relationship between sunlight and your body." He goes on to say “I think of it kind of like bathing in this river of time, that you're not holding on to each moment. It's like if you imagine being in a river, you're not trying to grab the water and hold on because you can't, so you're just letting it go and you're actually being a part of that dynamic flow.”
What is the origin of forest bathing?
Forest Bathing originated in Japan in the 1980s when they were experiencing a big tech boom and rapid urbanization. People were working very long, stressful hours inside, and the government noticed there was a huge spike in cancer and autoimmune disease. So they started all these different research projects, one of which was called Shinrin Yoku, forest bathing. The question that they were asking was: What is the biological effect of simply being in the presence of trees? Ben explains that “what they found was that trees released these chemicals called phytoncides. Phytoncides are antibacterial, antifungal chemicals. So if a fungus is attacking a tree, the tree diffuses these phytoncides into the air around it, they find the fungus and they kill it, so they protect the health of the tree. Now, what's really incredible is because all of our ancestors evolved under trees, we are evolved that when we inhale phytoncides, it triggers the production of a special white blood cell called a “natural killer cell”, or an NK cell. NK cells are part of your innate immune system, which means they're not looking for specific diseases, they're looking for stressed cells in your body. And the thing about stress cells is that that's how cancer starts. It starts by the cell becoming stressed, and then turning cancerous. So these NK cells are basically looking around your body for stressed cells that could become cancerous, and they identify them, and they terminate them preventatively so they never turn into cancer.”