For most of us it feels natural to head out into nature to unwind. Haven’t we all experienced feeling uplifted by taking contemplative walks through the forest? It’s an antidote to hectic urban life, proven by science. Seriously.
The Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is the simple and therapeutic act of spending time in a forest. Developed in Japan in the 1980s, it has become increasingly popular in the last years again. We might have known this intuitively, but science has proven that time in nature can make us happier, more creative, and less stressed. Improving our connection with nature leads to significant increases in our wellbeing.
So, how do you do forest bathing? First, head to a forest, or park. Turn off your electronic devices. Digital detoxing will help you to slow down and focus on your surroundings. Take your time. It’s not about a path, or a destination, so wander slowly or settle on a tree log, take in your surroundings carefully.
Shinrin-yoku is an invitation to interact with the forest in a meaningful way.
By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Focus on what is around you, on the details. Allow all of your senses to guide you.
Immerse yourself in nature, and observe. Birds flying above your head, a slight breeze making a leaf twirl away and a branch shake, slightly. Rays of sunlight catch the leaves, the textured forest ground, the color variations and shapes of the foliage. Touch the soft, green moss carpeting the shaded stones, or the rough bark on the trees. Close your eyes and breathe in clean, fragrant air. Listen and focus on sounds only; on bird songs echoing, on the sound of trees moving, creaking. On a stream gurgling, somewhere far in the distance? Open your eyes again and bring awareness back to the forest, to what you see.
Let the stillness around you influence your state of mind.
Forest bathing has benefits as other Japanese practices as Zen meditation and mindfulness. In a forest, those come naturally when you allow your senses to focus on the small, uncomplicated things around you. Japanese studies have shown forest bathing improves sleep quality, mood, ability to focus, and stress levels. Chronic stress can contribute to the development of conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia among others. Spending time in nature, away from modern technology and big cities, improves your physical and mental well being.
It is a mindful experience, yet not necessarily a solitary one. A guide can help to control the pace, to slow down and can offer invitations to experience the forest in new ways. A simple yet meaningful way to slow down and truly be in the moment. You will find us in the forest soon, most certainly.