13 Feb Your guide to forest bathing
You’ve probably heard of forest bathing – it’s a hot topic right now – and if you haven’t then you’re about to!
It seems that the Japanese have been leading the way with the practice known as ‘shinrin-yoku’ or being in the presence of trees, for over 40 years. Studies have since shown that this discipline can boost the immune system, decrease stress levels and lower blood pressure.
Known here as forest bathing, or forest therapy, this relaxation technique has a whole host of benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing. And GPs agree that fresh air and exercise play a part in reducing anxiety, improving sleep and aiding concentration.
At first glance, forest bathing may sound like a fancy term for going on a walk in the woods. And, to be honest, you’d not be far off in thinking that. The real difference is in how you spend your time on the walk. Are your senses open to the world around you? Is your breathing calm and measured? The key is mindfulness: maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.
These tips will transform a walk into a forest bathing experience:
The first thing to do is find yourself a forest, woodland or somewhere with trees (like a park). The more peaceful and removed from the bustle of city life the better.
Be prepared. Dehydration, getting lost or being stung by an insect can put a damper on your relaxing bathe. Bring what you need, taking care not to overload with unnecessary baggage.
When you’re bathing, move through the trees slowly while breathing deeply and slowly – this will help calm and relax your body. Can you identify the different smells?
Keep your eyes open and look about. The rich colours of nature can have a soothing effect on your mind and help reset a busy brain.
Try active listening. What can you hear? How do these sounds make you feel?
Some people like to connect with the earth by walking barefoot. Alternatively, stop now and then to touch the trees. Enjoy the sensations of the different textures.
Stop and sit for a while. It doesn’t have to be long. This is an opportunity to reflect on the world outside and inside yourself.
It’s recommended that you don’t jump straight into busy activity afterwards. Gently ease your way back into tasks to help maintain the positive impact of your bathe.
Ideally you should spend two to three hours absorbing the world around you while forest bathing. But if you don’t have much time, even half an hour can be good for the soul. How about swapping lunch at your desk for 30 minutes in your local park? Great for adults and children alike, this simple activity can make a real difference to anyone’s mental wellbeing.