FOREST BATHING Engaging your senses
Being in nature can make us feel good. We have known this for centuries. The sounds of the forest, smell of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air. These all give us a sense of comfort. They ease our stress and worry, help us to relax and think more clearly. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us. But what exactly is this feeling that is so hard to put into words? In Japan, they practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest using our senses. It is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By using and opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.
We have never been so divorced with the natural world. It is estimated that in the not so distance future, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities. According to a study the average person in the UK spends 90% of their day inside.
All is not lost the good news is that even a small amount of time in nature can have an impact on our health. A two-hour forest bath will help you to unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment and de-stress and relax you.
How to do forest bathing?
First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. Take your time. You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in. Unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling through the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the forest, Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree. Dip your fingers or toes in a stream. Lie on the ground. Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm. This is your sixth sense, a state of mind. Now you have connected with nature. When it comes to finding calm and relaxation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, it differs from person to person. It is important to find a place that suits you. If you love the smell of damp soil, you will be most relaxed where the natural landscape provides it. Maybe you have a place in the countryside that reminds you of your childhood or of happy times in the past. These places will be special to you and your connection with them will be strong. It doesn’t matter how fit – or unfit – you are. Shinrin-yoku is suitable for any level of fitness. You can forest-bathe anywhere in the world – wherever there are trees; in hot weather or in cold; in rain, sunshine or snow.
See you in the forest, enjoy the tranquility.