Into The Woods: Why You Should Take Up Forest Bathing
Description: The Japanese practice of unplugging and getting out in nature can make you happier and healthier.
What is it about spending time in nature that makes us feel so good? A lot actually. Science has shown us that being outdoors and in nature may boost immunity, while lowering stress levels and improving mood. More good news: You don’t have to take up intense sports like rock climbing or white water rafting to get the benefits — you don’t even have to walk. You just have to be in nature.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing, a type of outdoor meditation, helps participants to slow down and take in the natural environment. The technique began in the 1980s in Japan but is becoming more popular throughout the world.
In Japan, the practice is called shinrin-yoku, which translates to taking in the forest through the senses. You don’t have to exert yourself while in the woods to get the benefits. You just have to be open to the sights, smells, sounds, and textures found there.
The practice of forest bathing is becoming more popular — and more important — as more of us live in cities and spend time inside. According to a study from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend an average of 93% of their time indoors.
How to Forest Bathe
If you’re new to forest bathing or don’t know where to go, you might want to find a forest therapy guide to take you on your first excursion. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides & Programs is a good place to start. Using their map, you can easily locate a guide in your area.
The guide will take you on a walk through a natural environment. The guide won’t make small talk, but will help you connect with your senses and the natural world. Instead of exerting yourself physically, you’ll be connecting with nature on an emotional and spiritual level.
A typical forest bath takes between 2 to 4 hours but only covers about a half-mile of ground. Most first-time forest bathers find that these outings provide the closest and deepest appreciation of nature they’ve ever experienced. After forest bathing with an expert, you can begin doing it on your own in any natural environment, including public parks or gardens.
If you’re not ready to find a guide yet, just turn your phone off and get out in nature. Take care to walk slowly and absorb everything around you. Stop as often as you like. It’s OK (even encouraged) to dip your toe in a stream, smell flowers, or lie in a grassy meadow. It’s all part of what makes forest bathing so restorative. Of course, before you venture anywhere, make sure you know how to get back to your car or where you entered the woods and beware of any possible dangers, such as animals or poisonous plants. And if you go out in nature alone, always tell a friend or family member where you’ll be for safety reasons.
Once you’re accustomed to forest bathing, you can use a number of different activities to get the benefits. An important aspect to remember though is to silence your cell phone to make the experience fulfilling and help you unplug.
Other ways of enjoying nature while forest bathing include:
- Bird watching
- Identifying flowers or plants
- Doing yoga or tai chi in the woods
- Meditating or doing breathing exercises while you walk
Have you ever tried forest bathing before? Will you now? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion or on Facebook.
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Li, Q. (2018, May 01). ‘Forest Bathing’ Is Great for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It. Retrieved August 12, 2018, from http://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/