Want to Increase Your Emotional Health? Bring the forest inside

Bonsai & Ikigai the perfect match

I wrote an article recently about going out to nature to build a stronger connection to yourself and nurture your ikigai. It might surprise you to learn that you can get the benefits of forest therapy in the comfort of your own home.

2 years ago, I was reminded of a hobby I had as a teenager, taking care of bonsai trees. Since I rekindled my interest in these amazing little trees I now have 2 that live inside and 5 living outside. The interesting thing about my trees is, I saved over half of them from being thrown into the compost or being otherwise discarded.

I have saved 2 Cedar trees and 1 Pine, all which were growing out of the cracks in the pavement or randomly planted from seeds which found their way into a pot we have in the backyard. I also brought another Pine back to life when it started to look like it was on it’s last life. I saved a Juniper by taking a clipping and getting the roots to regrow.

Inside I have a Hinoki Cypress that I bought and a Sawara Cypress that I saved from a failed attempt last year to re pot a Sawara that I bought. Spending time with my trees is both mentally and physically therapeutic because I am touching the needles and branches as I am caring for them.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well if you haven’t figured it out yet, I have a miniature forest that is growing both outside and inside my house. I find joy in being able to take care of them. To make sure that they are getting the water they need, making sure that nothing else is trying to grow in their pots, etc. It’s one of the reasons I get up in the morning.

I find a lot of little joys when I am able to feel the branches and needles when I am pruning them, or when I am watering them to make sure that the soil is not drying out. I also enjoy the fact that the trees give off different scents and have properties in their tannin that help overall well-being and health of both the tree and myself.

Bringing the forest to my home has become a source of ikigai, just like going to the wilderness is also a source for me. I have developed strong feelings around tending these trees. It helps me keep focus and perspective and staying in the moment.

At times, I find myself gazing at the branches and looking at the intricate details of the different needles and leaves of the trees that I have. It’s interesting to me that the Gentle Gaze exercise I introduced in the article I mentioned above can also work in this context as well.

Touch and smell the nature in your backyard or house

Exercise: Our lives are so screen heavy these days, making time to disconnect from them and connect with nature is good for our health. Rather than using your sense of touch to always be typing on your computer/tablet/phone try touching a plant or tree. Feeling the leaves, branches, needles, etc. in our hands can have a meditative effect as you learn about the intricate details of the living thing you are studying.

Then get up close and use your sense of smell, notice what aroma comes to mind. Cedar trees have a distinct and therapeutic smell to them, like Cypress trees. Notice how your breathing and energy will find a natural balance and calm state when you practice this exercise. Do this when you need a break from the stress you are feeling of your day-to-day life.

We don’t need to drive out to the wilderness to connect with nature (although I love to do that). If you need some ideas on how to get a plant into your home, I would start with a succulent or plant. Find one that is resilient and relatively easy to care for.

Visit your local plant/tree nursery to get some expert help if you aren’t sure. Bonsai can be a meditative hobby to practice, but the trees require a little more attention and care, so I might not start here if you’ve never had a plant before.

#bonsai #mentalhealth #physicalhealth #ikigai #shinrinyoku #worklifeharmony

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