What is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing as we know it today originated in Japan in the 1980s. It was called shinrin-yoku, a notion that loosely translates as ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ or ‘bathing in nature’. For years people have sought peace, comfort and a sense of tranquillity by being outdoors. In that sense, forest bathing is nothing new. What sets forest bathing apart from just ‘being outdoors’ is that it is mindful, purposeful, deliberate time spent purely being in and focusing on the nature around you. It’s about being aware of and open to the sights, sensations and scents that might be overlooked on a straightforward hike in the greenery.
A recent study involving interviews with 20,000 people in the UK showed that people spending two hours or more in nature every week have significantly better mental health. The same researchers said that simply sitting and enjoying the peace of nature has mental and physical benefits.
How do I do it?
Chances are some of the above resonates. If so and you’ve decided to take the plunge… here’s how to do it:
- Identify and arrive at your chosen quiet woodland or forest.
- Turn off your phone off to keep those omnipresent notifications at bay.
- Move mindfully through the forest. What can you see, feel, smell?
- Take long breaths, then exhale twice as long as the inhale. This simple act tells the body that it can relax.
- Find a comfortable spot and be still. Take in the forest, using all of your senses. What can you hear? How do you feel? Try to
- keep all other, ‘everyday’ thoughts out.
- Open your eyes. Blues and greens are the best colours to help your body relax.
- There’s no time limit on a forest bathing experience, and any time you can manage is better than no time. To feel the maximum benefits of your bathe in nature, a couple of hours is recommended.
What are the Benefits of Forest Bathing?
A 2010 study into shinrin-yoku (Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine Online Journal), found that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. They also lead to lower pulse rates and blood pressure, show greater parasympathetic nerve activity (the ‘rest and digest’ response), and lower sympathetic nerve activity (the ‘fight or flight’ response) than do city environments. These results suggest that forest-derived medicine and therapies could be used as part of a preventative medicine approach.
Who Goes Forest Bathing and How Can you do it Too?
Forest bathing can be simple and inexpensive, or structured with more support and outlay. Do it your way. Destress and benefit from the healing powers of nature in your own style, at your own speed, when you feel ready.
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