I have always felt at peace in nature. I just never really paid attention to why. I just knew that the woods were calling to me and I must go.
When we moved to Maine from Virginia we had 3 children in 4 years and had no idea how to deal with the long winters.
We embraced the sauna lifestyle and that made a world of difference. Cedar panels, steaming rocks and silence. The cedar smelled so great and put me immediately at rest.
You walk through the snow to get to the sauna and it has a window so you can watch the cold world outside and on a good night even the moon lined up with our window view.
The sauna was a reason to go outside in the dead of winter, it was a destination and that was what we needed.
I really think so much of a sauna is about the wood. Saunas are traditionally made using cedar and you are completely surrounded (no metal, no plastic). Our sauna temp averages between 160-180F and the wood comes alive at those temperatures and you are surrounded by the smell of the forest.
Our kids sauna as well, but it's not active enough for them. Although my 5 year old is learning to meditate at school, so she has had some very zen moments this winter.
At a local shop here in Camden Maine, I came across the book; FOREST BATHING: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li
Dr. Qing Li, outlines the WHY we enjoy a good walk and HOW the trees allow us to connect and ultimately relax.
We started our kids out hiking as soon as they could walk and luckily we live at the bottom of our local state park, so we can go whenever the mood strikes.
The thing about forest bathing, is that it isn't about the destination or the length of the walk, it is about time spent with nature. No phone, no cameras, no ear buds.
The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku.
The largest benefits are shown when you can spend at least 2 hours surrounded by nature. This doesn't have to be an actual forest, just anywhere you feel at peace and with some plant life.
Maine and Japan have some similar forest ecology when it comes to the amount of beautiful evergreens we have. We have our hemlocks here and they have their Hinoki there but it's all humbling when you are standing among them.
According to the EPA, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors.
When I was developing Bijou, I envisioned a space where children and families could go to be in nature. Something that would draw them out as a destination. Something that would integrate into nature and not overwhelm.
We used panel material that would filter the sunlight to create a glow in the waning hours of the day.
We designed the panels to inspire open ended creative exploration and play.
We used colors that wouldn't compete with the natural environment.
We didn't realize it at the time, but we were creating a place for our children to experience shirin-yoku.
Like all mothers, I am acutely aware of the mental health challenges my children may face as they get older in this increasingly technologically connected world.
I hope I am teaching them skills now, that they will carry with them when they feel overwhelmed or anxious in the future. Time will tell, but in the meantime, we sure are having fun