Forest bathing. What, why, how, where?

There’s a new buzz word zipping through the ether like a honeybee on Red Bull.

Forest bathing 

When I first heard it, I had a vision (not a particularly pleasant one, for you or for me) of taking my swimming trunks and jumping into a cold woodland river. But it’s not. It doesn’t involve soap or shampoo either.

What is forest bathing?

The term originated in the eighties in Japan as Shinrin-yoku, where it refers to taking regular slow walks in specially designated forests to benefit your health and reconnect with the natural world.

Why forest bathe?

Because it has been scientifically proven to be beneficial in all sorts of ways. It can be effective in reducing anxiety and depression. It lowers your blood pressure, reduces your levels of stress hormones and increases levels of a hormone called serum adiponectin, which helps prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

How do you forest bathe?

Forest bathing involves more than just going for a walk through a forest. It means consciously enjoying a forest: taking time to wander; stopping to observe; breathing slowly and deeply; listening to the birds; touching the trees; feeling the moss; smelling the flowers; tasting the blackberries … In short, using all your senses to connect with the natural world.

Where can I go forest bathing?

Anywhere. Simply find your nearest forest. It can be small or large, deciduous or coniferous. You can do it alone or with your partner, neighbour, family, friends, dog … Some might prefer to forest bathe in a group. Personally, I would find that difficult. However, there’s really no specific prescription, no set actions or order, no special time of the day, month or season. The only thing that’s important is to slow down, take your time and follow your instincts.

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So what is it like?

Actually I’ve been forest bathing for years without knowing I’ve been forest bathing. Ever since I was a teen I’ve enjoyed walking in the woods and taking time to enjoy them.

For me it involves finding a log, sitting down and just waiting, watching and listening. Perhaps closing my eyes, which helps me hear the sounds of the forest: the distant tapping of a nuthatch as it attempts to open a hazelnut; the high-pitched squeal of a shrew in the leaf litter; the scratch of a red squirrel’s claws on a tree trunk.

I’ve written elsewhere of some marvellous experiences when sitting still in a forest: a fox cub approaching and sniffing my boots; young muntjac deer appearing out of the bracken and gambolling just metres away; three different species of woodpecker in the same tree in front of me, at the same time.

And the scientific claims are absolutely true. After forest bathing I come away feeling physically rejuvenated, emotionally uplifted, and creatively inspired, and closer to a higher spiritual presence than ever I’ve felt in a church.

Give it a try …

…  if you haven’t already. If you live in Belgium you may find a suitable forest on my other blog. And please let me know how you get on.

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62 comments

  1. I recently heard this term as well. I believe it was a wellness service at a nearby resort that someone told me I should look at. I’m like you…I’ve been doing this for years without knowing I was doing it. There’s something to be said about the Thoreau quote “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees”!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve been reading up on shinrin-yoku, too. As well, I’ve been doing it for years, but not to the degree that I do it as a mindfulness practice regularly. I walk every day, but to take an hour or two to go 1/4 mile isn’t something I do all that often! Your photos are lovely, Denzil!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is an amazing feeling. You just ‘let go’ and ‘be’. And the things that happen that never would under any other circumstances, like the fox cub coming up to you 😀
    I’ve had a snake crawl over my feet while I was meditating, and the amazing thing was I was aware of it but I just ‘let it go’ and didn’t react. I was amazed at myself but thrilled because I knew I was in such a beautiful place.
    If we just realised that we would all be totally at peace and happy if we just ‘let go’ of all those things in life that hold us in those patterns of fear. But that is the journey I suppose, to find those places and become that person of ‘no fear’ and be the love we are within 😀
    Great post Denzil, thank you for sharing your ‘bathing’ 😀

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  4. Hello Denzil,
    What a lovely post sharing this title with us and your beautiful experiences sitting in the forest.
    It’s such a wonderful thing to heal in nature and to deeply connect with it.
    I spent a lot of time in our nearby mountain last year when I was needing time alone to rediscover what was important to me.
    Mother Nature knows what’s best for us…
    Thank you, a really special post Denzil 💐✨✨

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve read articles about this topic and like you I was doing this in large parks without knowing it. It just goes to show that it’s instinctive to sit amongst nature and slow down even in a city as hectic as New York. I’m so grateful for greenspaces.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Denzil, have you heard of “grounding?” The term simply means that there are proven health benefits to physically grounding your body to the earth – putting your hands and feet onto grass, trees, dirt, etc. There is a movie by the same name – grounded – and one of the doctors who was involved with the movie, Laura Koniver, happens to live in my area, near Charleston, SC. It’s worth checking it out!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Likewise Denzil. I too have been doing it for years.. 🙂 and can whole heartily recommend it along with hugging a tree, or sitting with your back to a tree trunk.. Feeling the flow of energy.. Walking barefoot upon the Earth.. 🙂 Wonderful . And like your above drallisonbrown mentioned.. There is a film called Grounding.. showing how this barefoot connection with Earth is healing.. 🙂
    Great post Denzil

    Liked by 1 person

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