“The art of forest bathing is the art of connecting with nature through our senses. All we have to do is accept the invitation.”
Dr Qing Li
As we move gently through Spring towards Summer many of us naturally tend to spend more time outdoors. Everyone knows that spending time in nature refreshes our hearts and minds in many different ways. Stress and anxiety are reduced, we feel more energised and often gain a new perspective and sense of clarity that remains with us when we return indoors.
What is forest bathing?
The practice of forest bathing, “shinrin-yoku”, (sometimes translated as nature bathing),involves engaging with the forest environment with all your senses, completely and exclusively. In contrast with “being” in a forest environment whilst engaging in another activity, forest bathing requires total sensory immersion. It is a deliberate and mindful method of relaxation. Shinrin-yoku began in Japan in the 1980s and in 1982 it became part of Japan’s national health program.
What are the benefits of forest bathing?
Studies have demonstrated that forests reduce the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, that we hold within our bodies. In addition, blood pressure and pulse rate lower as feelings of calm and wellbeing rise. A study focusing on the impact upon people who spend significant amounts of time in forests also found a marked reduction in levels of aggression and depression.
How do I begin?
- Choose a quiet time of day.
- Move slowly through the forest to allow yourself the time and opportunity to fully experience all the sights, sounds and sensations of the forest.
- Belly breathe, deep into your abdomen, whilst slowing down your rate of breathing. This process can be enhanced if you choose to make each outbreath twice the length of each inbreath. As your breathing slows, your body responds by entering a state of relaxation.
- Turn off your mobile phone.
- Stop, identify one of your senses, and focus on what you can discover e.g. “What do I hear?”
- Broaden your awareness of all the sensory details of the forest around you, taking time to notice every tiny detail.
- Take time to stand or sit, being mindful of this time, and just observe.
- Allow your eyes to fully engage with all the colours of the forest. All the colours of nature are calming and restful.
- Gradually extend your time in the forest. Two hours is recommended to enjoy an entire forest bathing experience.