Stepping away from our daily routine and being in nature can profoundly affect our mood and well-being, restoring our energy levels and refreshing and rejuvenating us. In Japan, this practice is called Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku.
What Is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It is a form of mindfulness, a way of being present in the moment and paying attention to our surroundings.
Being surrounded by trees and nature can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase the production of serotonin and dopamine to increase feelings of happiness.
What Makes Forest Bathing So Effective For Mental Health?
Researchers examined this practice and its effects on mental health. The study found that “a single session of forest bathing improved mood and self-reported measures of fatigue, depression, tension, confusion and attention.” The study concluded that “forest bathing may be considered a cheap and feasible intervention to prevent mental health disorders.” One study found that forest bathing is associated with improved mood, reduced fatigue, and overall well-being. The researchers also concluded that forest bathing could be therapeutic for adolescents with emotional disorders. On a more individual level, taking time for nature can benefit overall happiness.
How To Practice Forest Bathing At Home Without Leaving The City
Forest bathing has been a therapeutic tool for thousands of years and was first used to help people with respiratory diseases. However, the essential aspect of forest bathing is the connection with the earth and all its beings and being thankful for the ground we walk on.
Forest bathing does not require going into the wilderness; you can do it anywhere with trees and plants. Living in an urban area is no problem; you can find a nearby park or green space to walk in. Alternatively, you can bring nature indoors by adding plants to your home or office.
Find a place with soft grass where you can sit or lie down and focus on breathing for twenty minutes. You may also find it helpful to close your eyes and focus on the sounds around you, as this will help to clear your mind and relax your body. You can also add other activities such as yoga, meditation, or simply sitting on a bench and enjoying the view. If you wish to find a place to practice daily, it is often a good idea to find a quiet, secluded area near your home or workplace so you can return to daily life quickly after your session.
Whenever you are near trees and plants, take the opportunity to slow down and take in your surroundings—breath in the scent of the trees and flowers. Feel the sun on your skin, and listen to the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze. Allow yourself to disconnect from technology and electronic devices for a while and focus on being present in nature.
Benefits Of Forest Bathing
Daily we are bombarded with stressors, from our jobs to our commutes to our social media feeds. It seems like there’s always something that can cause us anxiety or make us feel overwhelmed.
Being in nature also increases our levels of serotonin, the happy hormone, and it doesn’t take long to see results; even 20 minutes in nature can start to reduce stress levels. One study showed that forest bathing increased parasympathetic nerve activity, which is responsible for rest and digestion and decreased sympathetic nerve activity which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response.
Here are 17 other fantastic benefits of forest bathing
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Boost immunity
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve Heart Health
- Improve cognitive function
- Sleep Better
- Increase your sense of calm and well-being
- Improve your mood
- Reduce blood pressure
- Detox from electronic devices and social media
- Increase creativity and productivity levels
- Exercise and fresh air
- Boosts your self-esteem and confidence levels
- Reduced negative thinking and rumination
- Promote a positive outlook on life and increase happiness levels
- Increase energy levels
- Age gracefully and live a longer, healthier life
Potential Pitfalls Of Forest Bathing
Participating in life always has an element of risk, and forest bathing is no exception to this rule as there are some risks.
Do You Get Naked When Forest Bathing?
No, forest bathing does not require that you get naked. Instead, forest bathing is a practice that involves spending time in nature, typically in forests, and is said to have numerous health benefits.
There are numerous ways to enjoy forest bathing, so there’s no need to feel like you have failed as you did not participate in a certain way. Just take your time, relax, and enjoy nature.
18 Tips For Your First Time Forest Bathing
- Forest bathing does not require any special equipment or clothing. Just wear comfortable clothes and footwear.
- Going forest bathing with a friend or group is best. This way, you can explore the forest together and make sure everyone stays safe.
- Choose a location close to where you live so you can get there quickly and without driving for hours.
- Make sure to tell someone where you are going and when you plan on being back for safety reasons. It is crucial in case something happens and they need to come to look for you.
- Try to go during the week when there are fewer people around as you will feel more relaxed and get the most out of your forest bathing experience.
- Once you’ve chosen a spot, start walking. If you don’t have a specific destination, walk and take your time.
- As you walk, pay attention to your surroundings and take in everything. Notice the sounds and the smell of the trees and plants.
- If you see something that interests you, stop and take a closer look. Don’t be afraid to touch things or sit on the ground.
- Take your time and don’t hurry. The point of forest bathing is to relax and to de-stress, so there’s no need to rush.
- If you feel tired, find a place to rest. For example, lean against a tree or sit on the ground. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
- When you’re ready, continue walking and exploring. Remember that there are no rules – do whatever feels suitable for you.
- If you find a spot you like, stay there for a while and soak it in. Enjoy the peace and let all of your worries disappear.
- When done, take your time walking back to your car and pay attention to how you feel. Note if you feel any different than when you started.
- Forest bathing is a relaxing experience, so don’t worry if you didn’t accomplish anything while out walking. The point is to clear your mind and to enjoy being in nature.
- If you want, you can bring a journal and write down your thoughts or sketches of what you saw to remember your experience later on.
- People of all ages and abilities can do forest bathing. It’s an excellent activity for couples, families, groups of friends, or even people exploring nature independently.
- When you’re planning your forest bathing experience, make sure to choose a day when the weather is good.
- If possible, try to go in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t too intense to avoid sunburn or overheating.
Best Places For Forest Bathing in the World
There are many locations and ways to enjoy forest bathing. You can walk in the woods, sit under a tree, or spend time in your backyard. Forest bathing doesn’t have to be complicated – it’s simply about being in nature and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells.
However, if you’re looking to travel, you may want to consider forest bathing in one of these locations:
Redwood Forest, California
The Redwood Forest is one of the most iconic forests in the world. These massive trees can grow up to 380 feet tall and live for over 2,000 years.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is a popular park with various landscapes, including mountains, waterfalls, and forests, and many activities such as hiking, camping, and fishing.
White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
White Mountain National Forest was heavily logged back in the 1800s, but now the majestic hardwood trees are breathtaking. The Appalachian Trail runs through the forest, and the colour-changing leaves are awe-inspiring.
Adirondack Forest Preserve, New York
The Adirondack Forest Preserve is a national historical landmark where publicly held and privately held lands encapsulate over 6 million acres of land, home to old-growth trees, wildlife and recreational opportunities for all.
Many areas in Canada also offer some of the most beautiful and diverse places in the world for forest bathing. For example, the boreal forests of the north to the rainforests of the west coast.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia
Located on Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is home to various ecosystems, including rainforests, beaches, and diverse wildlife, including bald eagles, orcas, and sea lions.
Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories
Nahanni National Park Reserve is a UNESCO world heritage site in Northwest Territories. The Nahanni river has cave systems and waterfalls, and the reserve is home to various ecosystems and wildlife.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, with forests, meadows, glaciers, elk, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep.
Fundy National Park, New Brunswick
Fundy National Park is located on the coastline in New Brunswick and has the highest tides of any place in the world. There are also stunning waterfalls, beaches, and thick forests, home to many types of wildlife.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Gros Morne National Park is on the west coast of Newfoundland and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful adventure into forests, bogs, and fjords where you may see caribou, foxes, and bears.
Around the world, there are also many beautiful parks, reserves, and natural landscapes to forest bathe, including:
Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
The Cloud Forest Reserve is in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. The forest is home to various plant and animal species, including the Resplendent Quetzal, a brightly coloured bird and the strangler fig tree
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is in Uganda, home to various wildlife, including chimpanzees and gorillas. The forest is also a popular destination for birdwatching, as it is home to over 350 species of birds.
Daintree Rainforest, Australia
The Daintree Rainforest is in Queensland, Australia. The Rainforest is home to various plant and animal species, including the cassowary, a large bird, and the stinging tree.
The Sagano Bamboo Forest is near Kyoto, Japan
This forest is known for its towering bamboo trees that create a tunnel-like effect and is a peaceful and serene place to spend time.
Białowieska National Park, Poland
The Białowieska National Park is one of the last remaining parts of the primeval forest that once covered most of Europe. This forest is home to various animals, including bison, deer, and elk and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Black Forest, Germany
The Black Forest in southwestern Germany is home to many pine and fir trees and eye-popping lakes. The name black forest arose due to the density of the coniferous trees that made the area appear black from a distance.
Sochi National Park, Russia
Sochi National Park in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia is home to various ecosystems, including forests, meadows and rivers.
Whether you’re looking to reduce stress, boost your immunity, or improve your mood, forest bathing can be a great way to do it. Make it a daily experience in your life as there are many different ways to enjoy forest bathing, and plenty of beautiful spaces and places locally and worldwide.