As part of our #Treeinspired campaign, the Community Forest Trust takes us through how trees and the act of forest bathing can have a positive impact on our lives.
What is forest bathing?
Shinrin yoku, also known as forest bathing, was developed in the early 1980s in Japan and offered people a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of daily life to reconnect with themselves and nature.
Forest bathing is simply the act spending quiet and meditative time in a forest or woodland, with the aim of helping people to experience the physical and psychological benefits of being in nature.
At this time of year, getting out into nature and bathing in the forest may provide many with the tools to maintain a healthy mindset during the dark winter months.
What are the benefits?
Forest bathing can be seen as a form of preventative medicine, and numerous studies have found that the practise has a positive effect on health and wellbeing. Some of the benefits are said to include:
- reduced production of stress hormones
- lowered heart rate and blood pressure
- increased energy levels and sleep quality
- a strengthened immune system.
Where can you forest bathe?
The wonderful thing about forest bathing is that you can do it in any wooded area, whether that’s your local park, woodland or country park. You just need to be able to find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed and can soak up the atmosphere of the forest.
A quick guide to forest bathing
While you’re in the forest, concentrate on your breathing. Breathe deeply and slowly, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Concentrate on your muscles as well - start at your toes and work up your body, making a conscious effort to relax any tense muscles. You can either walk through the forest or be still, but focus on using all your senses to experience your environment.
What can you…
See: Which plants and animals are around you, and how do they move? Observe how the light is coming through the canopy. How many colours can you spot? What do you notice about the details of the tree leaves and bark?
Hear: Are there any animal sounds around you? Can you hear the rustle of the wind in the trees? Listen to the birdsong – how many different calls are there?
Smell: What scents can you pick up in the air? Can you smell the earth and the trees? How do the trees and plants in the wood smell different?
Touch: What do the different elements of the forest feel like? Smooth or rough? Soft or hard? If you can, take your shoes off and feel the ground under your feet. Take care when touching things in the forest and don’t touch anything you’re unsure of.
Taste: Open your mouth to taste the air or bring a drink and a snack to enjoy in the forest. Never eat anything in the forest unless you’re 100% of what it is and that it is safe to consume.
- Choose a quiet time of day
- Turn your phone off or onto silent and leave any unnecessary electronics behind
- Take your time and move slowly
- Spend as much time as you need forest bathing. The recommended amount of time is 2 hours but even a small amount of time will be beneficial