Outdoors & Environment

The Essentials of Forest Bathing

by Rebecca McCusker February 13, 2019
ReadThe Essentials of Forest Bathing Photo by Andrew Ridley

As more and more Americans move to cities and work long hours, more of our lives are spent indoors. In fact, the average American spends 93 percent of their time inside. We even exercise indoors! And, to exacerbate the issue, we’re spending an average of 10 hours a day in front of screens.

It’s no wonder we start to feel irritable, fatigued, and stressed. When the only natural elements of our lives are the succulents in our cubicles, we’re not reaping the incredible health benefits that nature has to offer.

The Japanese concept of forest bathing

Forest bathing, sometimes referred to as “forest therapy,” comes from the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which encourages us to go out into the forest, slow down, and take in our surroundings through all our senses. It’s mindfulness meets nature: the practice of letting the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest wash over us.

Health benefits of forest bathing

Numerous studies show that forest bathing packs way more health benefits than just jogging down a city street. Communing with nature leads to significant health benefits, including stress relief, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, a boost in mood, better sleep, an increased ability to focus, and decreased inflammation.

Are you Googling the closest metro parks yet?

How to forest bathe

Forest bathing is simple—that is, once you get past the hurdle of leaving your phone, camera, and other distractions behind. Beyond that, all it takes is a retreat into nature for any amount of time. It doesn’t have to be backpacking across Europe. It can be just an hour-long foray into your local metro park.

When you get to the forest, take a moment to pause. Slow down. Take note: What do you hear? What do you see? What sensations do you feel? Slowly wander around the forest, pausing to listen to a babbling creek, to smell the soil, or to feel the texture of tree bark. Sit down at the base of a tree and take in everything around you. Let your body wander, and let your mind revel in the beauty around you.

What forest bathing is not: a sweaty hike. You’re not going into the forest to get in a good run or rush past everything you see. It’s about slowing down, taking it in, and keying into your senses.

Before heading home, take a moment to pause and consider how different you feel now that you’ve taken some time to immerse yourself in nature. Appreciate that feeling. You might find yourself adventuring into the woods more often!

Have you had the chance to try forest bathing yet? We’d love to hear about your experience!

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