Shinrin-Yoku- Forest Bathing/Absorbing Forest Atmosphere
Photo: Montreat NC - Lisa Wright Burbach
What is Forest Bathing?
Cultures throughout the ages have recognized the emotional and physical benefit of taking time to mindfully experience nature. The idea became a movement when the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture coined the term "Shinrin-Yoku" in the early 1980's. Shinrin-Yoku translates as "Forest Bathing" or "Absorbing the Forest Atmosphere".
Recognizing work burn out and a need to connect the Japanese people with nature and preserve the land they encouraged residents to participate in both a physiological and psychological exercise by mindfully walking in nature.
Before you object -You don't have to be a hard core hiker, just step outside and let your senses connect with nature all around you.
You also don't have to be a serious wilderness lover or great outdoors person, simply set outside in any natural setting and absorb your surroundings.
What to do:
Take your time - this isn't how quickly can I walk a mile! Slow down. Like really! Slow down!
Engage with your sense of sight. What do you see? The more you look, the more you'll see. Do you see little tiny frogs? Itty bitty mushrooms? A chipmunk? The changes in the shadows and sun? Maybe you are at the ocean, do you see a dolphin? So much to see!!!
Engage with your sense of smell. What do you smell? Do you smell the earth? Smoke? Water? Can you smell the leaves decaying? Sometimes you'll smell unpleasant smells, that's OK. Look for the next smell.
Engage with your sense of hearing. What do you hear? Do you hear birds? Do you hear ants walking on a leaf? The wind in the trees? Small animals moving in the forest?
Engage with your sense of taste. What do you taste? Do you taste salt in the air? Do you taste sweetness?
Engage with your sense of touch. What do you feel? But be respectful!! Don't break or damage anything, leave it all as is for others to experience. Do you feel the roughness of bark? The coolness of water droplets? The warmth of a rock?
Engage all of your senses, pause from time to time to really drink it in and take your time. Try pausing and closing your eyes to help your other senses experience more.
Benefits of Forest Bathing:
Science has proven that taking time to experience nature is healthy and can be beneficial with as little as 10 minutes a day. Try for more though!
Can cause a positive effect on our sense of well-being.
May lower Blood Pressure
Lower Stress levels
Lower hormone levels, such as cortisol levels
Mental health benefits
Can reduce feelings of anger
Take your time
Don't get frustrated if you struggle being more aware and mindful. Just practice, it will get easier.
Watch your surroundings. Be safe and aware.
Stay on marked trails or well known areas
Try being intentional. Stand still, close your eyes and listen. Try covering your ears to see better. Whatever helps you be more intentional with your senses, give it a try. Keep at it.
Try journaling your experience
Aim for a minimum of 20 minutes, but do what you can.
Get a double boost and try "earthing" or "grounding" too. Go barefoot, let your skin come in contact with the earth.
Is Forest Bathing real? Yes! There is some excellent science to back it up.
Can I do it? Yes! Step outside, slow down, and let your senses drink it in.
Did you know that the benefits of Forest Bathing are so well accepted that doctors in America are now giving prescriptions to spend time in nature!! The average American spends 93% of their time indoors (inside and in vehicles)!!! I look forward to seeing that percentage go down as more physicians and psychologist sent people outside!!
There are also classes, Meet-up Groups, and other groups who lead Forest Bathing groups and classes. See if there is one in your area -try asking our friend Google "Is there a Forest Bathing Group/class in my area?". If you don't see one, grab a friend and start a group.
Let's get outside!
Wishing you peaceful and refreshing Forest Bathing!