Forest bathing by any other name is not as sweet

When I became aware of the new trend of Forest Bathing, I had only one question: What is it?

Friends explained that it is the practice of walking in a region of trees while inhaling the essence of nature. Of great value, according to adherents, are the essential oils exhaled (so to speak) by the trees. There are beneficial chemicals specific to each species. Walking through air saturated with a pine’s alpha-Pinene, for example, will reduce your own stress-causing chemicals.

Forest bathingMany of us have been partaking of the benefits of the forest without naming it. We just knew that we felt better when we returned home. I myself enjoy a walk along the flowing eddies of a river and the reflective swimming holes that our friends the trees lean over, providing dappling shade and, I now know, volatile substances.

In a troubling circumstance, I have lately been having difficulty remembering the name for this newly discovered benefit of outdoor exercise. The first label that enters my mind is not “forest bathing,” but “tree washing.”

I know it’s not tree washing. My pace slows as my gaze turns inward and I try to come up with the correct phrase.

“Forest bathing,” my wife tells me, when I’m inclined to ask her.

“Tree washing” could work in a broad sense, although it is more likely to conjure up the image of me scrubbing down a tree with water and suds. Forest bathing is a more accurate description of the activity in which the trees wash my physical being, and my soul, touching me only with their unseen grace.

Not only does it convey a more pleasant image, but it is more concise, too. That is why those of us concerned with the proper use of words struggle to find just the right phrase to express ourselves.

If you would like to talk more about the concise use of language, write me at

About Paul

I grew up in Marin County, California, and moved to Connecticut to join The News-Times, a community newspaper in Danbury where I eventually served as editor for 10 years. I joined Western Connecticut State University and ran the PR and development offices. I now serve as director of community relations and public affairs. I have four kids, all with the same wife, and now run Writing Associates, a consulting service that makes writing easier for my clients.