By Tina Spencer
Forest bathing? If you’re like many, the visual picture that came to mind after reading the title included a person (hippie) standing naked and happily showering in a lush forest. Although forest bathing can be likened to cleaning one’s body, it is actually a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments, according to the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides & Programs.
As we continue our efforts to be good Sustainability stewards, we explore yet another connection between healthcare and sustainability. Forest bathing began in Japan and translates to Shinrin-Yoku which means “taking in the forest atmosphere”. It provides relaxation from our often chaotic and sometimes too busy lives in a way that can be achieved pleasantly and much cheaper than some medications or other activities prescribed.
Forest bathing has many health benefits. The science proven benefits of forest bathing include decreased risk of heart attack, more energy and better sleep, decreased inflammation, protection against obesity and diabetes, mood-boosting effects, and experiencing a deeper/clearer intuition with an overall increase in one’s sense of happiness.
Forest bathing isn’t an exercise or burning calories. Instead, forest bathing should be a calming experience, without any hurriedness. It should be slow and focused on completely experiencing the quiet noise of nature. It can be as simple as a slow walk in a natural area like one of our local forests or one can take part in a dedicated forest therapy experience. Such programs are coordinated by certified guides and taught by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.
To forest bathe simply, find a park trail or forest and while sitting still or walking slowly, try to be present and focused only on the moment. Leave thoughts of deadlines, errands, work, school, and other busy-ness of life behind. Once present and focused, thoughts can be given to the sights and sounds of nature. Pay attention to the snapping of twigs, the rustling of leaves or animals moving about, and the different shades of green around. All five senses can experience the surroundings in the forest, but be mindful when touching or tasting anything.
Looking for a way to reach a place of greater calm and wellness? Try losing yourself in the beauty of the outdoors and experience the healing power of trees and all that nature has to offer.