Forest bathing is a healthy way of connecting the self with nature. This ancient Japanese practice of sensory engagement is being revisited and adapted to suit our modern lifestyles.
In the hustle and bustle of modern life, we often find ourselves disconnected from nature as we’re either so immersed in concrete jungles or surrounded by artificial and digital stimuli. This disconnect can have a negative effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Fortunately, there exists a simple yet powerful practice that allows us to reconnect with nature and reap a multitude of health benefits: forest bathing.
What is forest bathing?
Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese practice that involves immersing yourself in the atmosphere of a forest through all five senses. It’s not about exercising or achieving a specific goal; rather, it is about slowing down, being present, and connecting with the natural world around you.
The benefits of forest bathing
Numerous studies have shown the remarkable health benefits of forest bathing. These include:
- Reduced stress levels
Forest bathing has been shown to significantly lower our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to a sense of calm and relaxation.
- Improved mood
Exposure to the natural environment has been linked to increased levels of endorphins, the body’s natural mood boosters, promoting feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
- Enhanced cognitive function
Studies suggest that forest bathing can improve memory, concentration and creativity.
- Boosted immune system
Phytoncides, organic compounds released by trees, have been shown to enhance the immune system and reduce the risk of illness.
- Better cardiovascular health
Forest bathing has been associated with lower blood pressure and a lower heart rate, contributing to overall cardiovascular health.
How to practise forest bathing
There are no strict rules for practising forest bathing. The key is to find a quiet, undisturbed forest and to immerse yourself fully in the natural environment. Here are some tips for a fulfilling forest bathing experience:
- Leave your technology behind
Disconnect from your phone, tablet and other electronic devices to engage fully in the present moment.
- Slow down
Walk at a leisurely pace, allowing your senses to take in the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the forest.
- Engage all five senses
Notice the sunlight filtering through the trees, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, the earthy scent of the forest floor, the taste of fresh air, and the textures of bark and moss.
- Be present
Avoid dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Focus on the present moment and appreciate the beauty and tranquillity of the forest.
- Repeat regularly
The more you practise forest bathing, the more you will reap its benefits. Aim to spend time in the forest at least once a week.
If you don’t have a forest around you, find your nearest park, or step into your garden or anywhere that’s outdoors in nature. Click here to watch a video on another practice, called grounding, that offers similar benefits.