Even if you’ve ever gone to a forest and just sat in the shade, listening to the birds sing, you’ve already done something really beneficial for your health: Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing. The perfect antidote to the stress of today.
No one can deny the prevalence of stress in today’s culture. We can expect this to persist as a result of COVID. There’s always something to worry about, from looming deadlines at work to the health of family members, to personal relationships and more, no matter where you live.
Read on to learn more about Forest Bathing, how it can benefit you and what it’s like to experience it in London.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest bathing is the practice of immersing oneself in nature mindfully, utilising one’s senses to achieve a variety of physical, mental, emotional, and social health benefits. AKA Shinrin-yoku, ‘Shinrin’ refers to the forest, while ‘Yoku’ refers to swimming.
The concept originated in Japan in the 1980s and has proven to be a very efficient technique for overcoming the negative consequences of a hurried lifestyle and stressful work environment.
Many published studies provide data on the advantages of Shinrin-Yoku, and it has become a requisite in the Japanese healthcare system. Forest bathing’s therapeutic potential is now being practised all over the globe.
The History of Forest Bathing
Forest bathing began as a physiological and psychological activity in Japan in the 1980s. The aim was twofold: to provide an eco-antidote to post-technological-boom weariness and to inspire locals to reconnect with and preserve the country’s forests.
Shinrin-yoku evolved to become a preventive therapy for the immune system, cardiovascular system, depression and anxiety, inflammation, and other common health issues.
Digital Detox: Turn off your phone!
The benefits of living in the digital age, such as less face-to-face communication and connectivity come with a unique set of drawbacks. Continuous scrolling is increasingly displacing health-promoting activities such as regular exercise, face-to-face conversation, and quality sleep.
These downsides have long-term effects on our physical and mental well being. To avoid being imbalanced, we must not rely only on digital stimulation since the virtual world doesn’t connect with our senses—smell, taste, and the breath of fresh air.
One of the most important aspects of digital wellness and detox is removing ourselves from the technological distractions and addiction of our devices.
How to Forest Bathe
After arriving at your forest/woodland of choice, start by turning off your device/s (read above!).
Take it slowly.
Make your way into the forest so you can take in more of the sights and sounds and immerse yourself.
Make use of all of your senses.
Allow yourself slow, deep breaths. Exhaling twice as long as you inhale According to Dr Qing Li, the author of the book Forest Bathing, you must experience the world around you, through:
The sense of sight: forest landscape- absorb the green, yellow, red and any other colours. Studies have shown that individuals relax more when they are surrounded by greens and blues.
The sense of smell: the fragrance from nature and the plants.
The sense of hearing: forest sounds, birdsong, the crunching of leaves beneath your feet.
The sense of touch: Touching trees can put your whole body in the forest atmosphere
The sense of taste: Eating foods and fruits from forests, taste the fresh air in forests
Turn your mind off.
Take time out of your busy schedule to sit quietly and observe what’s going on around you. You’d be surprised by the number of wild forest animals you come across.
Spend a minimum of two hours in nature (ideally!)
Forest Bathing in London
Are you living in London and looking to take time for yourself, reduce stress and reconnect with nature? The art of forest bathing could be for you…
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the rush of London, or any city for that matter, stressing about work, family, friends, oh and did I forget to mention, work? Believe it or not, something as simple as taking time out to reconnect with nature can be all we need to overcome, or at least begin to manage, those feelings of stress and anxiety. We recently attended Clair de Boursac’s forest bathing session and couldn’t recommend it enough.
“Claire guides participants gently through a calming and restorative session”
Combining meditation, mindful awareness, and nature-therapy-based practices, Claire de Boursac guides participants gently through a calming and restorative session in the woodland of North London. Significant research underpins Claire’s work, with evidence for the positive benefits of forest bathing mental and physical wellbeing ever increasing.
Having had an emotionally challenging day, I entered into my first forest bathing session attempting to be open-minded but (admittedly) wishing I was at home watching Netflix.
What occurred over the next couple of hours was evidence of the fact that pushing yourself to do get out and do something that you’re not entirely in the mood for can be incredibly healing – especially when that something involves reconnecting with nature.
The session allowed me the opportunity to find peace with myself and, put simply, take a break from the hectic nature of life. While every session and experience will be unique, you will take something away from a forest bathing session – this could be something you’ve learned about yourself or about nature, it could be significant or it could be a reminder of the obvious.
While it’s, of course, possible to attend with someone you know, I can’t recommend attending alone strongly enough.
The Health Benefits of Forest Bathing
According to research, forest bathing can contribute towards
- reduced stress levels
- lower heart rate
- lower cortisol levels
- reduced negative thinking/rumination
- increased well-being
- increased empathy
- increased creative thinking
We’re excited to see forest bathing being practised in London – have a watch of the video to see how forests can heal people.