What is Forest Bathing? All You Need To Know About The Mindful Practice
Being out in nature, surrounded by nothing but greenery has always had a way of making humans feel at peace. The clean crisp air, the fresh green leaves, and the scent of the forest can really help restore our mood and leave us feeling refreshed. Shinrin-Yoku, also known as Forest Bathing, was first coined in the '80s by the Japanese Forestry Department in a response to the public health epidemic of stress-related illnesses.
Never heard of Forest Bathing? We speak to experts in the field Amanda Yik from Shinrin Yoku and Jasmine Nunns from Kembali to find out the benefits of the practice, along with everything else you need to know:
What is forest bathing?
“Forest bathing is the practice of bringing attention and awareness to your senses and body, in the forested environment around you. Literally to bathe your senses in the natural environment” says Nunns. It’s about gently softening into and observing the natural world you’re immersed in to enhance your general well-being.
From listening to the sounds of leaves falling, the stream’s slowly trickling water, to feeling the sun on the back of your neck, it’s a return to nature and a return to your body and soul. “Because of its’ holistic therapeutic effects on our mind, body and spirit, it is referred to in many parts of the world as forest therapy,” says Yik.
What are the benefits of forest bathing?
Forest bathing is reported to have a vast number of benefits. According to Yik: “Studies have shown (that it) stabilised blood pressure, reduced blood sugar, reduced stress hormone levels, strengthened immune systems, and in particular, increased ‘natural killer’ white blood cells that fight off infections and cancer."
After forest bathing, people often feel lighter, more relaxed, happier, and have more mental clarity, focus and creativity. “On a social level, forest bathing has also shown to cultivate empathy, confidence, improve communication and supportive relationships” adds Yik.
There are also many environmental benefits when humans begin to reconnect with nature. It can lead to a change in unsustainable behaviours and encourage us to consume less and produce less waste. Forest bathing is a celebration of nature, honouring it, and “remembering the reciprocity of our relationship (with the environment) which has been there from when our ancestors walked the Earth” says Nunns.
Tip for those trying forest bathing the first time
Yik suggests “the best place to forest bathe is a place that you would actually go to on a regular basis. Instead of a spectacular Unesco site, this might actually be your backyard if you have one, or a nearby garden, or your favourite local country park.”
Some simple tips for first-time forest bathers that Yik recommends is “slowing down, really taking time to pause and notice the surroundings; maintaining silence, dialling down the volume of our busy mind; opening our senses, including smell, touch, sounds, taste and sight; and perhaps the most challenging of all, try switching off your phone and allow yourself to fully immerse in the present moment.”
Nunns recommends a no-shoe policy “there is no better way to slow down, and feel grounded than taking your shoes off and feeling your first point of contact with the earth and soil.”
Try to find a spot where you can feel safe and connected with nature, and “build a relationship with that place, returning again and again. Watch how the trees change in different seasons, notice what animals show up, and call this place their home, notice how your body feels and you will return with a deepened sense of affection for your sit spot. Just watch, and observe, nothing else. The magic is in the simplicity of it,” says Nunns.