As a Japanophile myself, having lived there for three years, it's easy to love shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing" (shinrin = “forest,” and yoku = “bath”)
But lest you think that I've been hanging out too much in a state with lax marijuana laws, let me elaborate.
The Japanese government began promoting forest bathing in the 1980s, and today there are over 60 Forest Therapy Bases that promote and facilitate this health practice. Clients even include big names such as Nissan Motor Company and Mazda Motor Corporation.
Why does forest bathing matter?
In addition to the normal benefits we associate with hiking in the woods -- exercise, quiet time, quality time with friends -- shinrin-yoku has been shown to catalyze hidden biochemical benefits in our bodies, too.
In 30 years, over 65% of the world's 9 billion citizens are expected to live in urban areas.
This leads to many benefits, of course, including lower carbon and more convenient mobility, greater innovation, and more diversity.
But living in cities also comes with negatives, including less personal space, less green space, and more noise and air pollution. This probably means that shinrin-yoku will be even more beneficial to our health in the years to come.
Why does forest bathing work?
One explanation is that phytoncides, organic compounds emitted by the forest, can stabilize human hormonal secretion and autonomic nervous functions.
Study the economics of biophilic design, which attempts to mimic the health benefits of forests and apply forms and lessons learned to our built environment -- The Economics of Biophilia (also from Terrapin)