Forest Bathing: How the Forest Can Help You

May 08, 2018
How can being in the forest reduce your stress levels and blood pressure? Look no further than the Japanese technique of forest bathing.

By Jana Hemphill

This time of year, I find myself walking into a forest, closing my eyes, opening my arms, and just breathing in the forest. Breathing in its warmth, its smells, and I guess, its aura. Slowly breathing in, breathing out. My to-do list stops playing on a loop in my head. I instantly feel calmer.

It turns out what I’m doing has a name. Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku, was developed in Japan in the 1980s. Starting to gain traction in the US last year, forest bathing’s popularity is growing. It’s recommended as a way to unplug and as a health benefit.

What will you notice while forest bathing? Photo: Gary Miller
What will you notice while forest bathing? Photo: Gary Miller
So how does one go about forest bathing? The important aspect is to go outside and center yourself in nature by opening your senses. Leave the phone and camera at home. Don’t have an end goal in mind (that would be hiking, not forest bathing). Start to savor the sounds, smells, and sights of nature. Begin by closing your eyes and breathing deeply. What do you hear? Birds flitting in the willows, wind rustling the sage. Open your eyes and begin meandering. Notice the flowers getting ready to bloom, the creek sliding over rocks, the way the treetops sway in the breeze. Smell the pine needles on the forest floor, touch the roughness of Ponderosa bark and the smoothness of a river rock, count the types of lichen on a branch. Take it all in. Walk slower than you normally do. Let your mind’s thoughts drift away like clouds in the sky. Take your time, but don’t feel like you have to be outside all day.

 

Once you’ve gotten the hang of forest bathing, your experience can become more catered to you. Some people enjoy forest bathing through walks, while others enjoy it through yoga, hot springs, art, or meditation. If you love the desert, forest bath there.

Why forest bath? I do it because it makes me feel wonderful. There are also health benefits (which are why I feel wonderful). Numerous studies have shown forest bathing to lower blood pressure, lower stress, and help your immune system. I also like that it makes me feel more connected to where I live and improves my sense of place.

The next time I go outside and forest bath, I’ll see you out there, with your arms wide and your mind calm.

 

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