The magic of Forest Bathing

Photo by Natalie Rhea Riggs

As I sit down to write, I am enjoying a beautiful, hot, sunny summer day on my patio, surrounded by several huge pine trees that are well over 50 years old and a wide variety of roses, petunias and daylilies that seem to continue to bloom even in the heat.

This is my most favourite place to be — it’s peaceful, relaxing and good for my soul.

Some refer to this as “Forest Bathing” or “Nature Therapy.”

When I first heard of the term “Forest Bathing” several years ago, I have to admit the first image that came to mind was someone sitting in a bathtub in the middle of the forest. Forest Bathing is simply taking in the forest atmosphere using all of your senses. The concept of Forest Bathing — or, Shinrin Yoku — originates from Japan in the 1980s. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest”, and Yoku means “bath.”

Many cultures over the last hundreds of years have also embraced the benefits of experiencing nature, but it seems that Japan is the first to put a name to the practice itself.

Forest Bathing doesn’t necessarily have to be experienced in a forest, although it is recommended that you have the opportunity to encounter at least one tree on your journey. You can venture off to a neighbourhood park, garden or even your backyard.

It’s recommended you do your best to limit any distractions, perhaps turning your cellphone off or on mute for the time being.

It’s also a good idea to not be attached to any particular goals, expectations or outcomes beforehand: just being okay with whatever you will experience today is a good mindset.

You want to be sure to take your time and engage in all of your senses during your walk and at times of rest. You can ask yourself: What do I see? Perhaps wildflowers, a small chickadee or the path ahead.

What do I hear? Maybe a babbling brook, birds chirping and gentle wind blowing through the trees.

What do I smell? Consider the freshly cut grass or flowers in bloom,

What can I touch and feel? Rub your hands across the bark of a tree, cool soft moss found on a log or feel the warm sunshine on your face.

What can I taste? Bring along a refreshing drink of water, a healthy snack or even a breath of fresh air.

If you come to a place in your journey where you would like a rest, give yourself all the time that you need. Forest Bathing can also be done in any season, as there are always new experiences with each changing season. Some enjoy going out in a smaller group, while others enjoy experiencing Forest Bathing on their own. There also is no set length of time that is best, whatever is best for you.

Surrounding yourself in nature instantly allows you to de-stress. Which in turn can boost our immune system.

It allows us to step away from the busyness of everyday life and allows us to “unplug” and recharge our batteries within.

Forest bathing can also improve your mood. Researchers have suggested that spending time in nature releases hormones that bring feelings of calm, joy and connection. Being present in nature can inspire creativity, help us to problem solve and allow us to experience a deeper appreciation of the world around us. Physically, you are also getting the benefit of getting outside to exercise. Trees help create oxygen and assist in filtering the air, so you get the added benefit of fresh clean air.

There are so many incredible city and provincial parks to discover in our beautiful province, each bringing a different experience. I hope this has inspired you to submerge yourself in the healing practice of forest bathing.

Happy exploring!