We all know that getting out in nature and breathing in the scent of fresh air is good for us, and yet so many of us put off this vital activity in favour of work or screen time. This is where forest bathing steps in to offer us an alternative, immersive experience that helps us unwind from the stresses of daily life while reconnecting with nature. Read on to discover all you need to know about forest bathing, why it is good for you and how you can make it a regular practice for 2020!
What Is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing, also known as The Japanese Art Of Shinrin Yoku, is essentially dedicating time spent outdoors in a calm, forest environment to help connect with both nature and yourself through the use of your five senses. Forest bathing is a therapeutic, immersive, wellbeing activity that aims to bring peace and connection while also having long-term benefits for your mental and physical health.
When/Where Did Forest Bathing Originate?
Shinrin Yoku, or Forest Bathing is thought to have begun in Japan in the early 1980s and the term was coined by the Japanese Forestry Commission as a way of highlighting the importance of reconnecting with nature. Forest bathing started as a form of preventative healthcare and healing thanks to the therapeutic effects it is thought to have on the immune, cardiovascular and respiratory systems as well as our general mental health and wellbeing. It is now considered a form of Nature Therapy and is a cornerstone of Japanese medicine and healthcare.
However, one may also argue that forest bathing is a natural activity that humans have been partaking in for centuries, and that it is only now – when our lives are filled with work, technology and time spent indoors – that we have to consciously take time out of our busy lives to reconnect with nature. We can say that forest bathing is simply a return to our original state of being.
How Do You Take A Forest Bath?
Rather than simply taking a walk in the woods, forest bathing is about having a deeper sensory experience through mindfulness and meditation techniques. While anyone can easily try forest bathing themselves, it can be beneficial to join a dedicated group activity the first time you try it so that you can fully immerse yourself in the practice, receiving professional guidance along the way. This will allow you to learn the best techniques to quiet the chatter in your mind and to open your senses in a new way which will allow you to experience the forest on a deeper level.
Forest bathing is not about how far you walk or how much you learn (intellectually) about the forest, but rather about the connection you have to nature and the peace and stillness you can find in the moment.
If you do want to try forest bathing yourself, take yourself off into the woods, finding a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. The key is to go slow. Rather than covering a great distance, focus on a small section of forest, taking time to feel, see and experience each element of nature, stopping regularly to simply sit and take it all in.
Instead of thinking about how beautiful things are, try to go one step further and feel the beauty of light, textures and sensations. This is best experienced when you try to use all of your senses; spending time looking around, breathing in the scent of the forest and listening out for sounds of birds and wildlife as well as the delicate noises of leaves falling or twigs underfoot. If you feel comfortable, consider taking off your shoes; feeling the moisture and texture of soil beneath your feet, or touching and hugging leaves, trees and branches.
Why Forest Bathing Is Good For Your Health
Forest bathing is thought to have many health benefits including lowering cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate as well as boosting our immune systems. Research by Miyazaki also suggests that forest bathing increases parasympathetic nerve activity, the signifier of a relaxed biological system and a general sense of calm.
It is thanks to this research, alongside a study published by Natural England, that the UK government is looking to ‘green care’ to support those suffering from mental ill-health. Not only do forest bathing and other green experiences allow you to reap the benefits of being out in nature, but it also allows you to improve your mindfulness techniques which will come in handy even when sitting at your desk!
If you experience feelings of stress, anxiety or being overwhelmed, consider trying forest bathing. Forest bathing can be as simple as taking 10 minutes out of your day to focus on nothing other than nature or can be a fully immersive 2-3-hour experience which allows you to totally switch off from urban life and discover the magic of the natural world. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your mood improves and how much easier it is to focus on simplicity and gratitude when you’re not distracted by the buzz of daily life.
Where Can I Try Forest Bathing?
There are various locations all over the world where you can experience forest bathing with a certified guide. The Association or Nature and Forest Therapy features a list of certified guides and locations so that you can seek out a forest bathing experience near you.
Alternatively, you can book onto one of our retreats that combines yoga and mindfulness with forest bathing experiences to help you connect with yourself and nature on a deeper level.
Have you ever tried forest bathing? Or are you thinking of giving it a go in 2020? Let us know what you think in the comments below!