How Forest Bathing Can Help Make You a Better, Healthier Leader

Photo: Jennifer Walsh

Five minutes into my conversation with beauty-industry pioneer Jennifer Walsh, I'm convinced I need to build myself an outdoor office. "[Time spent in nature] boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and improves sleep," she explains. When it comes to optimizing my work life, couldn't I use a little boost in all of the above areas?

With her latest endeavor, a content site called The Healthy Entrepreneur, the Beauty Bar founder has made it her mission to encourage boss babes to "lead with beauty"—as in, beautiful intention. Walsh believes that what you say, do, and think has a major impact on those around you, and that physical and mental health are therefore critical components of effective leadership. It can be difficult to lead with beauty—or lead at all—if either fails you.

Walsh unfortunately learned this the hard way—through personal experience. Years ago, when she was running Beauty Bar, the makeup and skin-care retailer she'd started from scratch in 1998 and sold to Amazon in 2010, Walsh's doctor discovered a massive tumor located in her colon. "I was in the fittest part of my life," she says of her shock at the revelation. "I was hardcore training [as a runner]." 

Fortunately, the tumor was ultimately found to be benign, but the entrepreneur realized she maybe wasn't as healthy as she thought. "Even though I was already exercising and eating healthy, I was driving myself to extremes running this massive, multi-million-dollar business while trying to take care of my employees, my family, and everything else at once," she says. She loved her work, so she didn't think of it as work. "But I was doing too much," she admits.

The health scare made her more aware of the immense responsibility that comes with being a leader, too, because if something happened to her, it might negatively affect or even end her business. "[Without Beauty Bar], I couldn't pay people, and then they couldn't pay their mortgages," she says. "There was a lot riding on my health."

In the aftermath of this and other challenges in her career and personal life, Walsh found healing relief in the regular Central Park walks she shared with her dog. "It was the only place in the city that was quiet," she says. "It was like, 'Here's a respite from the storm.'"

"When we're kinder to ourselves, I think we're better able to take care of our teammates or team members." —Jennifer Walsh

After upping her walks to twice a day, Walsh wondered why it was that this simple act made her feel so good. So, she started calling doctors and researchers to find out. "I didn't know there was such a thing as nature therapy, or forest therapy, or park prescriptions," she says, citing research that shows that "forest bathing" boosts cells that bind to and kill tumors and viruses. "It's almost like a green tonic."

Eventually, she so evangelized her walks that people began to ask if they could join her, and from there, the video series "Walk with Walsh" was born. "I take my walks with CEOs and founders [e.g. Gabby BernsteinKeri Glassman, and Weight Watchers' Mindy Grossman], and we talk about what it means to be the healthy leader," she explains.

Ultimately, Walsh says, what she's learned from these walks is that leading with beauty starts with treating yourself right. "When we're kinder to ourselves, I think we're better able to take care of our teammates or team members," she explains. In other words, those aforementioned beautiful intentions start with what you say, do, and think about you.

Below, Walsh shares five additional components of healthy leadership. You can find more, too, through her new Amazon Alexa Skill, The Walsh Wakeup, which provides daily mantras for mindful leadership.

Keep reading to find out what it really means to lead with beauty.

how to be a healthy leader
Photo: Jennifer Walsh

How to be a healthy leader, according to Beauty Bar founder Jennifer Walsh

1. Try and understand that your behavior will set the tone for those around you. If you are kind and understanding of others, it sends a ripple effect through all that you do.

2. Take time to be outside every single day—and not on your device. Being present outside around plants and trees is an instant mood stabilizer. It loops you back into optimal health from your brain to your body to your cells.

3. Don’t chase after people, projects, or things. You will never have to chase what is ultimately meant for you, and once you realize this, things become much clearer.

4. Before you ever ask someone for something, always ask what you can do for them. You are going to this person because they might have insights on a job or a person or an opportunity that you should be connected to. Think about how you might be able to help them in return before you even ask for help.

5. As life gets busier and busier, make time for those who matter most to you. Be present and be aware of what they might be going through. Our time is valuable and so are friendships. They feed the soul, if you let them.

Need more nature? From Tennessee to Japan, here are 9 otherworldly forest bathing destinations. Plus, treehouse living is a thing you should be doing, too.

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