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Daniel Beckemeier

What Is Forest Bathing?

Our busy, everyday lives do not always lend themselves to relaxing activities. However, if you want to escape the hustle and bustle for a while, why not try the new trend ‘forest bathing’?

What Is Forest Bathing?

Despite what the name suggests, you won’t need your swimming costume or goggles for this activity. The term simply refers to the practice of slowing down and being mindful and immersed in your surroundings within a forest atmosphere.

Over the last few years, the popularity of mindfulness and awareness of the impact of outdoor spaces on mental health has increased. Many of us take some time outside to reset and unwind after a stressful day and to feel refreshed. The benefits of nature therapy are also based on science: in 2018 academics at the University of Derby found that improving a person’s connection with nature led to significant increases in their wellbeing.

How Do You Forest Bathe?

It’s simple! Forest bathing consists of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeply. But where to start?

  1. Find a suitable location in nature: The setting for your forest bath does not need to be dense with trees. There should be minimal man-made features around you to get the full effects.
  2. Enter the forest, stand still, and take a moment to recognize your body in space. This should take you 10-20 minutes to become fully immersed. During this time, note the feeling of your feet and the ground beneath you. Notice any sounds, smells or just the way your body is feeling in this moment, without judgement.
  3. Breathe in the smells of the forest. You can then walk on a little and find places with rich aromas of soil or flowers. Certain trees have specific benefits such as Cedars, Birch trees, and other plant life produce valuable phytoncides which increase the number of disease-fighting white blood cells in the body.
  4. Maybe find a comfortable spot and sit in this location for a while. This can be a dry spot in a meadow, a tree stump, a fallen log or a large boulder. Avoid anything that may disturb animal habitats. You can return to your mindful walking as and when you are ready to do so.
  5. Once your bathing is over, don’t suddenly stop and return to reality. Instead, take the time to reflect, taking yourself back to the senses and make sure to take a drink of water before returning to everyday life.
Daniel Beckemeier

What Can Forest Bathing Do For You?

The National Trust commissioned a study that explored how soaking up the sounds of the natural world affects people and found that it relaxes people more than if they were to listen to a guided, voiced meditation app.

The participants of the study were asked to say how they felt after listening to a 1-minute recording of forest sounds, a meditative app, or silence. The results revealed that people felt 30% more relaxed, 25% less stressed and 20% less anxious after listening to these sounds.

Further research of over 2,000 adults also revealed that almost 40% had felt that once they had heard their favourite woodland sounds made them happier, and birdsong was top of the list of most popular sounds of wooded areas.

What’s The Science Behind It?

‘Shinrin-yoku’ or forest bathing, originates from Japan in the 1980s, following scientific studies conducted by the government. The results revealed that after two hours of mindful exploration in a forest reduces blood pressure, lowers levels of stress hormones (cortisol) and improves concentration and memory.

It was also found that trees release chemicals called phytoncides, which have a protective antimicrobial effect on our bodies. This boosts the immune system and because of this research, the Japanese government introduced ‘Shinrin-yoku’ as a national health programme.

Daniel Beckemeier

Tips For Forest Bathing:

As bathing in a forest is no more complex than simply walking through your local woodland or park, the only difference being the amount of attention you spend on your surroundings, you should note that there is no pressure on ‘getting it right’. There is no wrong way to do this practice, just as there isn’t a bad way to meditate. From noting simple things like the breeze through the canopy, to the birdsong and sunlight, here are a few tips to help you become present in nature:

  • Pick a slower, quiet time of the day. There are more likely to be fewer people around if you choose to go out into the woods in the early hours of the morning or later in the evening. Depending on your weekly schedule and commitments, you could also try weekday afternoons.
  • Switch off – literally! Turning off your electronic devices or putting them on do-not-disturb can help you remain present without distractions. An hour or two of digital detoxing can help to slow you down and focus fully on your surroundings.
    TIP: This is particularly good if you work on computers as it gives your eyes a break from the blue light of the screens!
  • Take your time. Wandering slowly through the forest can be a very meditative experience. Walking too fast might mean that you miss noticing the little things and the practice becomes more of a task and a journey, rather than a meditation. If you take the time to stay still and quiet, you might also see some wildlife, such as birds, rabbits and even deer!
  • Use all 5 of your senses. Touching the tree trunk and feeling how rough the bark is under your fingertips is all part of the experience. For all bird lovers, why not try listening out for birdsong and trying to identify which bird is singing?
  • Pay attention to your breathing. Try taking some slow, deep breaths. Count as you go and notice the rising and falling of your chest as you do. TIP: Try closing your eyes as this will allow you to feel more grounded. Once you have done this, gently open your eyes and bring your awareness to the forest around you.
  • Stay as long as you feel comfortable doing. Did you know that the recommended time for forest bathing is 2 hours? For most of us that is a very long time for a meditation, and might feel daunting, so don’t feel bad if all you feel up to is 10 minutes at a time. After all, 10 minutes is all it takes in nature for people to feel refreshed.

Wondering where to start? The National Trust has a great guide on where you can start your forest bathing journey, but simply going outside and walking in nature might be where you find yourself starting your forest bathing adventures.

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