Let’s talk about forest bathing, what it is, and why you should try it today
You may or may not already be aware of the term ‘forest bathing.’ It comes from the Japanese ‘Shinrin-Yoku’ and it is a recognized form of nature therapy. It is the act of simply being in nature. You connect with nature through your senses. Be present and connect through sight, sound, smell and touch to enjoy the benefits of forest bathing.
Forest bathing can be a solo or group activity. While meditation is often a solo practice, forest bathing needn’t be done alone. If like me, you’re an extrovert who prefers the company of others, you can still benefit from forest bathing.
It may require some walking in silence as you both observe your surroundings, but there’s no reason you can’t forest bathe with others. Whether done alone or with friends, you will still benefit.
5 Benefits of Forest Bathing
1. Forest bathing is proven to make us happier and less stressed
Research has identified 3 major factors that can make us feel healthier and all of them are achieved with forest bathing. These factors include beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively-charged ions.
These 3 factors interact with our gut bacteria to strengthen our body’s immune system and improve our mental and physical health. It may be hard to believe that walking outside amongst nature can benefit our health, but it most certainly does.
2. It’s easy; it truly is just a walk in the park
Forest bathing is not going for a hike or doing any form of strenuous exercise outside. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You should slowly meander through nature, quietly observing and listening to nature. Be present in the moment. Some people use this time to meditate.
I prefer to gaze around at the trees, birds and any other wildlife scurrying about in the woods. We have lots of squirrels and chipmunks here in the Pacific Northwest, and raccoons are a common sight in Stanley Park.
Another simple way to enjoy the benefits of forest bathing is to bring a picnic to the park. Sit in the grass, barefoot if possible to indulge in grounding, and enjoy your meal out in nature. One of the best things about forest bathing is that it is easy and accessible to all. Even if you live in New York City, you have Central Park. Every city or town has parks for all to enjoy.
3. It provides an opportunity to disconnect
We all know that we need to disconnect from technology and constantly ‘being on’ and yet, we rarely do it. Forest bathing gives us the perfect opportunity to do exactly this. I call this one a win-win!
If possible, leave your phone at home or in the car. If you must bring it with you on your nature walk be sure to put it on silent mode, or better yet, do not disturb. Even the constant buzzing of notifications will disturb you during your nature walk.
In order to truly experience the benefits of forest bathing, external distractions should be kept to a minimum. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the experience.
4. Forest bathing boosts our creativity
I can speak from experience on this one. When I’m feeling less-than-inspired to write, or am suffering from the dreaded writer’s block, I head outside. Even a brisk walk in nature is often enough to boost my creativity and elicit new ideas and a newfound motivation to create.
I am grateful to live so close to Stanley Park that some days I will hop on my bicycle and ride around the park, through the trees, or around Beaver Lake. I prefer to ride without music when I am trying to fully embrace the benefits of forest bathing.
5. It lowers your heart rate
Studies have shown forest bathing lowers heart rate and blood pressure. One particular study set out to confirm the cardiovascular benefits of forest walking, and it did just that. Forest bathing has scientific evidence to back it up.
We all know that exercise is good for us, but it turns out that if we take our walk outside it’s even better. Being one with nature is calming so it makes sense that it would lower our heart rate.
I always find that I take deeper breaths when I’m out in nature. It could be the calming effects of nature itself or the smell of fresh air. Either way, deep breaths are both cleansing and calming.
And there you have it, five reasons to try forest bathing today. Nature has always been a healer to me, long before I had ever heard the term ‘forest bathing’ I was already doing it. Even when I was younger, I would go for long walks on the trails behind my house when I needed to clear my head.
Don’t live anywhere near a forest? Take a virtual forest bathing tour of the old-growth forest Giant Cedars Boardwalk. I can’t say there are scientific benefits to a virtual tour, but who knows, there might be! It’s worth a shot, plus the pictures are pretty awesome 😉
Have you ever tried forest bathing? Knowing all the amazing benefits of forest bathing, would you give it a try? Let me know in the comments below.