I don’t know about you, but with COVID and social distancing, I notice that I have been spending a lot more time outside in nature, and that is how I discovered forest bathing. The practice of forest bathing, also called forest therapy, involves no bathing and is not led by a therapist. It originated in Japan in the 1980’s, and is known as shinrin-yoku which means “taking in the forest.” It is the practice of moving slowly in nature using all the five senses. It feels and looks a lot like standing around, so to speak. While it may seem easy to do, it turns out to be harder to do in practice, as you start to notice your thoughts the more you slow down.
When I started moving slowly in nature, I started to notice my own thoughts: am I moving too slowly? What will people think who pass me on the trail? Am I doing this right? However, the more I slowed down, and stopped to notice different plants and animals, the more I became aware of the smells and sounds around me, and the more I was able to appreciate the present moment and my own breath. Doing forest bathing has helped me move from doing more, to more being, which has been enjoyable.
Some of the benefits of forest bathing include relaxation, less stress, connections with nature, insights to take home, improved mood, improved vigor, reduced fatigue and feelings of awe. Research is showing that being in a natural setting is good for mind-body health. It can lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory. A chemical released by plants and trees, called phytoncides, boosts the immune system.
How to Go Forest Bathing
- You can choose anywhere in nature, it can be a park, a forest
- Make sure you have left your phone behind
- Relax all your muscles
- Walk aimlessly and slowly
- Let your body be your guide, letting it lead you where it wants to take you
- Follow your nose
- Take your time
- Savor smells, sounds sights of nature, let the forest in
- Slow down, stop often. This is not a hike
So, what are you waiting for? Start your forest bathing therapy today and find what it is like for you!
By: Dr. Nesrin Abu Ata