Forest Bathing is a wonderful act of self-care that connects you to nature and helps you ground. It can be a powerful meditation-like practice that relieves stress and improves your overall health. Learn more about what forest bathing actually is and how to reap all the benefits.
What is Forest Bathing?
Were you just about to grab your swimsuit and towel for a refreshing round of forest bathing? Refreshing, yes, but this wellness trend has nothing to do with actual bathing. Rather, it’s a Japanese technique (called Shinrin-yoku) that started back in the 80’s as a public health program to relieve signs of burn-out and depression. Essentially, it is about spending time outside to connect to nature through all your senses. It’s also called forest therapy for its healing powers.
The major health benefits of forest bathing have been proven in research ever since the 80’s. People who spend time in nature report being more energetic with less signs of fatigue and anxiety, and are generally in a better mood. Their overall health seems to be better as the practice of forest bathing can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and relieve signs of burn-out, depression and other mental health issues.
Even (or especially) during the winter months when the trees might look less inviting than in summer, a peaceful stroll through the forest can be a beautiful way to relax. The serene silence can help you let go, and inspire feelings of self-love and compassion: just like nature calms down in winter, it’s okay for us to take a step back as well – and wake up feeling reborn in spring.
How can forest bathing help with stress?
Spending time in nature is good for your body and your soul. We move, we use our different senses, and for many of us living in big cities, a trip to the nearest forest can feel like a beautiful way to escape and recharge.
Turn off your phone to avoid distractions and really slow down. This is not a hike or workout. Try to view forest bathing more as a kind of meditation where you bring your awareness to the beauty of nature around you. Walk slowly and stop whenever you feel like it. Really take it all in with all your senses: do you smell the fresh air? See the lush colours of the trees? Can you hear the birds chirping or leaves moving in the wind? Why not take off your shoes to really ground and feel close to Mother Earth.
The official recommendation is to spend a good 2 hours to reap all the benefits of forest bathing. But there’s no need to force it; listen to yourself and find what feels good. Even 15 minutes in nature can help to clear your head and refresh your mind, if you commit to the practice. Just like any other form of meditation or self-care, it’s really about what you make of it.
If you do want to commit to the 2 hours of strolling through the forest, try to end the experience with a few minutes of absolute stillness. Find a quiet spot to sit down and allow all your senses to soak in the goodness. If you feel inspired, take a notebook with you to write down what you’re experiencing. This can function as a beautiful reminder later on, when you’re back to your busy life.
What if there’s no forest nearby?
You don’t necessarily need a large forest for this act of self-care. It’s the time in nature and the practice of slowing down and disconnecting, that promises stress relief and other health benefits. Spend some time in your garden, a quiet park, beach… any place that gives you a sense of calm and serenity. Apparently, even photographs of beautiful, luscious forests can help us find ease. Worth a try, right?
Have you tried forest bathing before? We love the idea of connecting to Mother Earth in a mindful, calming way. This practice is also said to create more awareness and gratitude for nature. We could all use a little more of that. 🙏