Forest bathing

June 21 2023

Have you heard of forest bathing? This Japanese practice is an ancient process of relaxation, known in Japan as 'Shinrin Yoku', which has become prominent in the UK over the last couple of years.

Lets take a deeper look within this fascinating, age-old wellbeing technique…

What is forest bathing?

The fast-paced times we are living in make huge demands on our attention and energy. Add into that the daily problems that life throws at us and you have a recipe for being on high alert or stressed out more often than not. To combat our demanding schedules, a trip to a forest or smaller woodland can offer a range of wellbeing benefits from time away from work and home, to a quiet space for contemplation and reflection.

Forests are known to cover one third of the world’s total land area, and they host almost half of the world’s land-based animals and plant species. If you can’t make it easily to a forest or woodland then there are always smaller clusters of trees that are more accessible, to visit in parklands and public spaces.

Who better to go to for tips for forest bathing than Forest England, the UK’s largest land manager of over 1,500 forests. They explain: ‘Forest bathing is a practice that centres around a process of relaxation. It is a simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeply and can help both adults and children de-stress and boost health and wellbeing in a natural way.’

 

If you like the sound of forest bathing, then once you have found your forest of choice, Forest England’s top tips are…

 

  • Turn off your devices to give yourself the best chance of relaxing, being mindful and enjoying a sensory forest-based experience
  • Slow down. Move through the forest slowly so you can see and feel more
  • Take long breaths deep into the abdomen, extending the exhalation of air to twice the length of the inhalation sends a message to the body that it can relax
  • Stop, stand or sit, smell what’s around you, what can you smell?
  • Take in your surroundings using all of your senses. How does the forest environment make you feel? Be observant, look at nature’s small details
  • Sit quietly using mindful observation; try to avoid thinking about your to-do list or issues related to daily life. You might be surprised by the number of wild forest inhabitants you see using this process
  • Keep your eyes open. The colours of nature are soothing and studies have shown that people relax best while seeing greens and blues
  • Stay as long as you can, start with a comfortable time limit and build up to the recommended two hours for a complete forest bathing experience

You can visit www.forestryengland.uk to find your nearest forest. Once you have found a destination that works for you, they recommend visiting outside of peak hours for optimum quiet times.

a person with open arms breathing deeply within the forest

Forest bathing exercises can be great fun

Especially for those adults with children, as it teaches them concentration, understanding and mindfulness. Our senses relax under the forest canopy as we’re filled with energy from experiencing the landscape, and fresh forest air. Below are a few thoughts on people’s experiences of forest bathing…

‘I felt the breeze ruffling my hair and on my face. I smelled the baking piney evergreens nearby. I heard the rasping call of a jay in the distance and a few small insects buzzing around. Apparently, these where the things April was going to point out to me but didn’t need to. But in that moment, I was alone, focused on nature.’ Laurie

‘Forest bathing was a wonderful experience, I found it incredibly relaxing and the sense of well-being has stayed with me.’ Rachel

‘For me, unwinding usually means escaping from reality in the form of binge-watching a series on Netflix or reading a good book. But this experience opened my eyes to the simple yet beautiful in-between moments of life. Proving that you can relax and be present in the moment. While I’m still an urban dweller at heart, I now have a newfound appreciation for nature.’ Venkat

 

Forest bathing shows us that something as simple as spending time between trees can be seen as an antidote to stress and anything that can leave us happier on the way out than when we went in is worth experimenting with.

 

Written by Emma Browning, our Pastoral and Wellbeing Lead at Livability Millie College. Emma has supported people to improve their wellbeing for over 20 years.

Emma says: ‘Wellbeing is something woven through Livability’s work and I’ll be sharing some wellbeing themes and approaches in these blogs. My hope is that you enjoy reading them and they build a strong foundation for your wellbeing.’

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