What is forest bathing?
Perhaps it is a bath in a forest, literally?
As amazing and interesting as that sounds, forest bathing is indeed different, but in amazing and interesting way, too.
Forest bathing is the holistic experience of simply being in the forest. The activity and health practice was developed in Japan during the 1980’s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
In the United States, it can also be known as nature therapy, ecotherapy or forest therapy.
In studies, forest bathing has been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well being.
Following is how you practice forest bathing and some additional resources and links.
How to Practice Forest Bathing
- Put aside a good amount of time for this activity and then find a location in nature that speaks to you.
- You may do your forest bath solo. If going with another person or group, conversation is kept at a minimum to maintain the peacefulness and contemplation of the activity.
- Enter the forest, stand still, and recognize your body in space. Don’t be in any hurry. Take in the sights, smells and sounds. Really breathe in the forest and take in the scene around you.
- Proceed with the bath by walking forward mindfully. This is not a fitness walk. This is a meditative stroll. The pace is slow.
- Reflect to yourself (or reflect out loud if you wish) what you are noticing around you.
- Find a good place to sit (if possible) and sit in that location for reflection (try to aim for 15 to 20 minutes if possible)
- You needn’t go very far. A small distance will do. Some forest bathers only trek a quarter to half a mile maximum
- Don’t be afraid to use the sense of touch in your forest bath. Run your hand gently over the bark of a tree. Touch a delicate leaf on a shrub. Think about the experience and reflect on what you’ve learned
- Even though it sounds simple at first, forest bathing takes a little practice and time to be able get the best benefits. Be patient and gentle with yourself and practice often!
- A good book on forest bathing: Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature by M. Clifford Amos.
- A great overall website for forest bathing (including information on forest bathing guides/therapist): Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides & Programs.