Forest bathing, also known as Shinrinyoku in Japanese – Shinrin stands for the forest, yoku for bath – is the activity of walking mindfully through a specific type of natural environment, usually a forest.
In the Japanese tradition, enjoying calming activities like forest bathing regularly is something usual, even necessary.
How Forest Bathing Affects Your Health
Forest bathing is known to bring numerous health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, an increase in energy levels, and an elevated attention span. One specific study at Chiba University in Japan can prove the statement above. The experiment featured 24 forests across Japan; the total number of participants was 280.
Scientists involved in the study sent half of the volunteers into the forest, while the other half was sent into the city. The next day, they switched. At the end of the test, the results showed that people spending more time forest bathing had “lower concentrations of cortisol, a lower pulse rate, a lower blood pressure, and greater parasympathetic nerve activity,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Forest bathing would be common if you lived in Japan. But even when you’re far away from it, you can still learn the tricks and practice on your own. Let’s see how you can practice this interesting Eastern technique to heal your mind and body.
Find the Place
When practicing forest bathing, it’s important to feel relaxed. “Yes, you are in nature, and yes, the air smells different, but you should feel as comfortable as in your own house in the place you chose to practice,” shares Jenna Gomez, psychologist and Certified Forest Therapy Guide in Ohio.
Make sure you find a quiet place that sends positive vibes. Feel the energy of the site before starting. Close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes if you have to.
The purpose of forest bathing is connecting with nature and the Universe by embracing life exactly as it is. Due to this, if you find peace in an urban environment, you could also practice forest bathing in a park.
However, the benefits might not show up as fast and as powerful. The best choice is finding a secluded, safe area within the forest.
Pick a Good Time
If you are hurried or feel exhausted, forest bathing won’t work for you. To get the best outcomes, you should be open, communicative, receptive, and loving. So, don’t go just now. Keep a journal and track your moods and emotions. Write down how you feel every day.
See when you feel the calmest and most self-aware. When is your mind more than willing to receive new information?
Don’t Take Too Much with You
Try keeping your belongings to a minimum when preparing for a forest bath. Feeling free and grounding yourself in nature can only happen when you’re not worried. So, take your cell phone and some water with you, and start your journey.
Don’t take pictures, don’t stay on social media, disconnect from technology by any means. Feel the nature and let nature feel you.
“Walk slowly! This is the number one rule to facilitate connection with the source,” shares Kayla Burnham, Certified Forest Therapy Guide in California. One of the reasons forest-baths are so useful is that the forest-walker concentrates on everything he or she can encounter visually. Hiking or walking quickly will only defocus your mind from observing.
“We often forget to pay attention to the little things in our lives,” continues Burnham. “So this is the perfect opportunity to remember how to do it. The more present we are, the more grateful we become.”
Use Your Senses
“Being the observer for an hour or two might change your life,” writes psychologist Dana Townson on her blog. “Using your senses to absorb positive energy is underrated,” ends Townson. And she’s right – we’ve become so preoccupied with the material world that we’ve completely forgotten to use our intuition.
Here’s how you could use your senses to anchor yourself in the present moment:
- Through touch – hug a tree and touch its branches; thank the tree for the oxygen it provides and the love it sends you. Notice how rough the maple bark feels. Take off your shoes and touch the earth with your bare feet. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. You are grounded.
- Through smell – what scents can you seize? How does the forest smell? How refreshing is the air? Finally, how salty is the breeze?
- Through vision – look in front of you. What do you see? Observe the small details you would’ve never encountered. What color are the trees’ leaves? How cute are the tiny creatures flying from one branch to another? Can you see the sun kissing the Earth and giving it it’s warm blessing? Notice the plants, the flowers, the fruits. How much more beautiful can it get?
- Through taste – if you feel brave enough, you could taste some of the local plants or pick them up to make some tea. Make sure you research the area’s flora and fauna before your forest-bath. You should be aware of what plants you must avoid touching.
Tell a Friend
Now that you know how relaxing it feels, recommend forest bathing to your friends. You will help them cleanse and gain a new perspective of the world! If you decide to return to the forest together, set up rules! To get the same valuable results, you should not talk to each other for at least one hour.
Enjoy the nature separately and have a debriefing session right after.
Practice at Home
Let me tell you a secret – if you’re grounded enough, you don’t even have to physically be in the forest to enjoy feelings of mindfulness. Meditation is the key! On rainy days, stay at home and bring the forest to you.
Forest bathing has incredible health benefits for your mind, body, and spirit. Consider practicing this activity at least once per week. In the end, connecting with nature means connecting with yourself. Grounding yourself in the present moment means being grateful for every second of your existence.
So, smile – you are definitely on the right life track!