Who Knew A Walk In The Forest Could Be So Healing?
Jane Coloccia, Wellness Patrol
Essentially, it is a walk in the forest, but the term “forest bathing” has much more meaning and science behind it.
Forest bathing is actually “Shinrin-yoku”, a Japanese healing therapy which literally means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” And don’t worry – you don’t have to take your clothes off in the forest.
Developed in Japan in the 1980s, “forest bathing” has become a cornerstone of preventive healthcare and healing in Japanese medicine. It’s based on a very simple premise: you leave ALL your electronic devices and distractions at home and simply go spend time under the canopy of a living forest.
Walk around. Hug a tree. Just sit down on a stump and take it all in. Tune into smells, sounds, sights, and even tastes around you. But the important thing to remember is that you’re not taking a hike with an urgency to get to the end destination. You are instead wandering mindfully through the forest. Here’s an interesting story from an NPR writer on her take on forest bathing in Washington, DC.
The Shinrin-yoku concept believes in the restorative powers of making a visit to a natural area and walking in a relaxed way. And there are scientifically-proven benefits to back it up including:
Forest bathing is slowly growing in popularity around the world with guided classes being offered in a number of destinations. For those who want to immerse themselves in a longer forest bathing retreat, wellness and spiritually oriented spots like Esalen are also offering forest bathing workshops.
If you would like to give forest bathing a try, you can always just go take a mindful walk out in nature. Or the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy has some guidelines and recommendations to try as well as a list of forest bathing events and activities around the world here: https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org.
Perhaps Henry David Thoreau was ahead of his time enjoying the simple life on Walden Pond.