I have to admit I thought forest bathing was a quirky, new age name for being in nature. Turns out, I was only half right.
The concept is actually Japanese. It’s called shinrin-yoku.
What it means is soaking in the forest atmosphere, using all of your senses. Something we don’t do enough of. Would you believe we spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors? I believe it, because it’s often true of me.
And the Japanese don’t mean just taking a short walk. They mean spending substantial time in nature–a couple of hours.
We know that time in nature is soothing, calming and a great way to counteract the effects of stress. But we probably didn’t think it through like the Japanese. They believe that bridging the gap between nature and our human selves–merging with it–is part of good health.
Science found that it has health benefits on metabolism and the cardiovascular system. See the summary of this research.
Here’s how to do it:
Find a pretty spot in nature–a place that resonates for you. In my case it’s almost always the ocean and forest at Big Sur, Calif.
Leave electronics behind. Cameras, too.
Explore the natural world at your own pace, with no particular destination. Two hours is a good amount of time for this activity.
Take it in with all five senses. Today we’d call it being mindful. So be mindful as you forest bathe. Notice the colors, scents and the feel of things. Do you hear birds or leaves rustling? Taste the air.
In Japan, forest therapists are available to guide you –they have something called a forest therapy program. But you don’t need a forest therapist to enjoy the benefits of forest bathing. It’s simple to do on your own.
Some activities are compatible with forest bathing. Imagine tai chi in the forest. Or deep breathing. Or bathe in a hot spring. Hug a tree if you like.
And yes, trees are necessary for forest-bathing. As you might have figured out.
The idea is to spend a significant amount of time unplugging from our crazy world and plugging in to the natural world.
Why not give it a try?