Forest Bathing: What It Is, Proven Health Benefits & How To Do It
There's no doubt that being in nature makes us feel good. Taking in the sites, smells, and sounds of the forest feels peaceful and restorative. But when was the last time you felt one with nature and fully allowed yourself to connect with it through your senses?
In this blog, we'll explain why doctors in Japan prescribe their patients to 'forest bathe,' as a means to use nature for it's therapeutic benefits and why you should take up this mindful, wellness practice as well.
What Is Forest Bathing
Forest bathing is essentially a form of nature therapy, in which one uses the natural world to receive therapeutic benefits. The Japanese call this practice “shinrin-yoku.” Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So together shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through the senses.
Instead of running or hiking through the forest, this exercise forces you to slow down, way down. Forest bathing involves walking very slowly and taking breaks to fully embrace your surroundings. For many of us, slowing down and practicing mindfulness is a quite challenging but is often just what we need to do.
Proven Health Benefits
Studies have shown that forest bathing is beneficial for both physical and mental well-being. The Japanese swear by this practice to aid in a multitude of mental, physical and emotional health issues.
Some of the many amazing proven health benefits of forest bathing:
Reduces stress hormone production ✓
Improves feelings of happiness and creativity ✓
Lowers heart rate and blood pressure ✓
Boosts immune function ✓
Accelerates recovery from illness ✓
Use Your Senses
Now that you know what forest bathing is, here is an example of what it looks like to use your senses to 'take a bath' in the forest.
- Notice the leaves rustling in the wind, hear the birds sing high in the tree tops, listen to the sticks crunch beneath your feet as you walk.
- See the sun rays shine through the tree leaves, a butterfly land on a beautiful flower, watch blades of grass swaying in the breeze.
- Smell the sweet scent of tree bark, the musty earth below, the refreshing fragrance of pine needles.
How To Get Started
The beauty of forest bathing is that it is easy to do, free therapy, that can be done at anytime. There are only 5 major steps to do forest bathing.
1). Be fully present in the forest. Leave all electronics & distractions behind.
2). Absorb each and every part of the experience. Allow your thoughts to come and go, accept the environment around you and take in the entire experience with awareness and without judgement.
3). Take breaks to "smell the roses." As you walk slowly, pause to refocus and reconnect with your senses.
4). Find a spot to sit down and listen to the forest sounds. Notice how you feel as you relax into the environment around you.
5). Remain quite until the end of your walk.
May The Forest Be With You
The next time you go hiking in the forest, try to incorporate some forest bathing into your adventure. Start or end your hike with this wellness practice to fully tap into the healing energy of nature. Sink into this cleansing 'bath' and rid yourself of stress, worry, fear, anger or any other feelings that weigh you down. We bet you'll be surprised by how good it feels to simply be one with the natural world.