Get MindfulNature Forest Bathing

Nature: Forest Bathing

15 May 2024

Ever heard of forest bathing? And no, it's not a bath in the forest although I’m sure that would be wonderful too.

 

What is Forest Bathing?

Forest Bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is a practice that involves immersing oneself in nature to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

This practice originated in Japan in the 1980s and has become increasingly popular in recent years. 

 

The Benefits of Forest Bathing

Being in nature has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which is the hormone responsible for stress. This can lead to a decrease in feelings of anxiety and promote an overall feeling of relaxation. 

Forest bathing has been shown to improve mood and increase feelings of happiness. This is likely due to the release of endorphins, which are natural chemicals that are released in the brain during physical activity and can produce a sense of euphoria. 

Being in nature has also been shown to increase cognitive function. This can lead to an increase in creativity and problem-solving skills as well as an improvement in focus and attention.

There is a lot of research now outlining these many benefits, these include but are not limited to:

  • Reducing stress levels 
  • Improving mood
  • Enhancing creativity 
  • Improving immunity
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Increasing feelings of happiness
  • Improving well-being & mental wellness

  

How to Forest Bathe

A great thing about forest bathing is that many of the benefits associated come from hard wired mechanisms in your brain and body. We are nature, and we have an innate connection to it. Even just getting yourself to an area of nature and spending some time there will have positive effects. 

You don’t really have to “do” anything to reap the great effects… it's more about “being”. 

Here are some tips you may wish to follow to get the most out of the experience:

 

1. Scouting a Location

The chosen location should be filled with interesting features that improve opportunities for observation and various sensory activities. 

The setting for a forest bath does not necessarily need to be dense with trees. Any kind of natural setting with minimal human-built features will work, but environments rich with trees will allow for direct engagement through touch. 

The sound of streams or ponds will enhance the auditory experience. 

Flowered meadows are also desirable for scent-based engagement. 

A combination of closed spaces, like canopy-dense forest areas, and open spaces, like meadows, provide the best forest-bathing trails because they allow for a diversity in light and sound.

 

2. Engaging Your Senses

When you enter the forest, take a pause and really immerse yourself in the environment. Notice your surroundings. 

Quietly list what you can see. Bark, leaves, rocks, moss, maybe a river.

Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. You may also pick up a small rock, branch, or leaf. Move this natural object around in your hands and concentrate on how you interact with this object. This means that you pay attention to not just your skin’s contact with the object, but how your muscles and bones change their position to adjust to its place in your hands.

Try closing your eyes as this gives you easy access to mindful engagement with your other senses.

Note the sounds that you hear. These noises may be birds chirping, water splashing, or leaves rustling in the wind.

Recognize the smell and texture of the air. Sometimes in a forest it feels cool and heavy. Breathe in slowly and exhale to notice the smells of nature. If you like certain smells, it may be important to keep your preferences in mind when choosing a location. Certain tree scents can also have particular benefits. Cedars, birch trees, among other plant-life produce valuable phytoncides which increase the number of disease-fighting white blood cells in the body - yes, the chemicals some plants give off actually enhance our immunity!

 

3. Balancing Movement and Stillness

Keep the sensory and present moment engagement while you switch between elements of walking (being mindful of your movement and the environment around you), periods of sitting or just standing still. Some days you will feel like more moving, some days you may feel like more sitting- go with how you feel in the moment.

 

4. Immersing Yourself

Try to be as free of distractions as possible - put any devices on silent or even better, leave them behind. 

Some other techniques that can be incorporated into forest bathing to maximise the benefits further include:

  • Breathing exercises

  • Mindful walking

  • Meditation

  • Grounding exercises - like the 5 senses grounding technique

 

5. Transitioning Back

When you come to the end of your forest bathing - try not to rush back straight back into busy life right away. Maybe drink some tea (as the Japanese do at the end of forest bathing), to mark the end of the experience, and gently transition back into your day.

 

Forest bathing is a wonderfully immersive experience and it's really worth giving a go, especially if you struggle to slow down, be mindful at home or suffer from stress. Please remember that this does not have to be complicated, just get out and “be”.

If for any reason this doesn't feel suitable for you, please have a go at The Sit Spot which can is like Forest Bathing's little sister!

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