The Japanese practice Shinrin-Yoku, translated into English as ‘forest bathing’ is about connecting with nature and surrounding yourself with the energy of the natural world. Developed in Japan in the 1980’s it has become recognised as both preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Studies conducted quantified the health benefits of spending time amongst the trees, demonstrating that forest bathing positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system.
And, after just 15 minutes of forest bathing blood pressure drops, stress levels are reduced, and concentration and mental clarity improve.
It is actually no more complicated than simply going for a wander in your local woods or park. The only difference is that rather than walking for exercise, you take the time to really focus on the natural world around you and leave all your usual distractions at home.
It’s a great opportunity to carve out 15 minutes for yourself, which hopefully feels achievable and with the woods and forests being at the best right now – it’s the perfect time to try.
Here’s our five simple steps to giving it a go:
- Pick a quieter time of day.
There will fewer people around if you go to the woods in the early morning or later in the evenings. If you are familiar with your surroundings leave behind your phone or any other distractions, so that you can be fully present in the experience.
- Take your time.
Wandering slowly through the trees can be very meditative. Ideally settle down on a log to really take in your surroundings. If you go with others, make an agreement to resist talking until the end of the walk, when you could gather to share your experiences.
- Use all your senses.
When did you last touch a tree trunk and feel the rough bark, or notice the way sunlight catches the leaves, or listen to the sounds and try to pick out all the different types of birdsong around you?
- Pay attention to your breathing.
This is a great way to relax and clear your mind, so you can focus on what’s around you. Try closing your eyes and taking ten slow, deep breaths in and out, then gently open your eyes and bring your awareness back to the forest
- Stay as long as you feel comfortable.
Two hours is the recommended time for a forest bathing session, but if you’ve got a busy schedule then even just 15 minutes in nature can help you to feel refreshed.
Once you’ve finished your session, think about how it made you feel? Did you discover anything new, could you feel your body slowing down? Do you feel like you’ve made some time for yourself?
Why not write down some notes and see what new things you discover each time you try it.