When is the last time you walked outside? Near trees? Without a phone or electronic device? If you can’t remember, you’re not alone. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors (87% of this time is spent inside buildings with an additional 6% in an enclosed vehicle, on average). Interesting statistics that hit home after I examined my own routine, which includes an hour-long commute five days a week. I don’t think it’s an accident that levels of stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety have elevated along with this increased time spent indoors. I’m not saying it’s a direct correlation; however, there is a large amount of research that suggests that simply spending more time outdoors near forest-like environments can have huge physiological, calming benefits.
I recently read the following article about the Japanese practice of forest bathing. Forest bathing—just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982. It may not be a new concept, but I think it’s a deceptively simple example of how humans can naturally improve their overall feelings of wellness, and “detox” a bit from the frenetic pace of life.
According to the article, forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being. Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better—inhaling phytoncide (a substance emitted by plants and trees) seems to actually improve immune system function.
The WELL building standard offers a framework to help improve the health and well-being of everyone who visits, works in, or experiences a building. Miron is focusing a lot of effort and resources on exploring the possibilities of what this means, not only in the built environment, but what organizations can do to encourage people to go outdoors, or at least try to bring the outdoors inside. Forest bathing is just one example of how this focus may change the landscape of how the built environment is designed and constructed to improve human well-being.
To read more about forest bathing, check out this article.