What is forest bathing?
I recently went on a nature trip to Colorado, so I was inspired to share information about forest bathing!
At first glance, forest bathing sounds like something in the forest involving nudity, a bar of soap, and a pond. While forest bathing could involve those things, that isn’t what it’s all about. You can let out a big sigh of relief!
Forest bathing involves taking in the natural healing beauty of the forest by spending time slowly walking or quietly sitting. By moving slowly and remaining quiet in nature, we are signaling our bodies to slow down, causing a relaxation response. When we relax, we are in a more receptive state, able to take in the healing properties of the forest.
You can think of it like unblocking our pores, inviting the beautiful forest energy to come into our bodies, while allowing negative energies to be released. In that sense, we create a symbiotic relationship with the plants and trees of the forest. They take in our waste products (negative energy, C02) and emit positive energy and oxygen that we absorb.
Where did it come from?
The term Shinrin-yoku was coined in the 1980’s in Japan translating to “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” Japanese researchers began measuring specific health benefits of people who spent time in a forest environment, eventually calling it “forest therapy” and recommending it as a regular practice for preventative healthcare and healing.
What are the health benefits?
Boosted immune system functioning with a noticeable increase in the body’s immune cells (Natural Killer or NK cells)
Improved energy levels
Decrease in blood pressure
Increased ability to focus including for children with ADHD
Overall increase in sense of happiness and wellbeing
Deeper and clearer sense of intuition
Decrease in anxiety, depression, and negative emotions
Accelerated recovery from illness or surgery
Reduction in cortisol and stress levels
Heightened sense of connection with the planet, nature, and ourselves
How do I forest bathe?
There are many ways to forest bathe, depending on mood, location, and time available. It’s important to know that forest bathing does not involve long, strenuous hikes or marathon-like meditation. It is meant to be a relaxing retreat that is accessible and enjoyable. Walking distance should be kept to a mile or less.
Pick a location. It doesn’t need to be Yosemite or a famous forest. It can even be a small park near home or work. The key here is accessibility. if you set the bar too high, it will be more difficult to make time for forest bathing, so go easy on yourself, and pick a spot that is easy to access.
Set aside a specific amount of time. Again, there is no need to spend hours and hours in nature. The goal here is to fit nature into your everyday life. Consider taking a 15-30 minute walk through the park at lunch or set aside an hour once a week to visit a local forest.
Put away your phone and any electronic devices. It’s important to be fully present during your nature retreat.
Take some deep breaths. Deep breathing allows the body to relax and become more receptive.
Take a slow meander using your senses to take in the surroundings. You don’t need to focus on all the senses. See what feels best and go from there.
Look around you and notice what you see. What color are the trees? Is there grass or other plants? Are there birds, animals, or bugs anywhere?
Notice the sounds. Can you hear the birds chirping? Is there the sound of water? Do the trees make a noise when the wind blows? Do your feet make a noise as you walk?
Take in the smells. Do the trees or leaves have a smell? Are there flowers or plants that have a smell?
Touch your surroundings. Put your hand on a tree and see how it feels. Pick up a pinecone and run your finger along its scales. Touch a leaf and see how it feels up against your hand.
Imagine how the elements in the forest taste. What do you think a leaf would taste like? How about an acorn? Alternatively, you could bring some vegetables or edible plants with you that come from a nearby forest and enjoy them on your walk.
Feel the forest. What do you feel as you slowly walk through the forest? When you touch a tree, what do you feel? Do you get any sensations in your body? Do any particular emotions or thoughts pop up?
If you don’t feel like walking, find a nice spot to sit and relax, focusing on one or more of your sense perceptions.
Enjoy your newfound sense of peace and relaxation!