Why you should try forest bathing

Feel the grass beneath your feet, listen to birdsong, watch light filter through tree leaves – trust us, ‘forest bathing’ is good for you. 

What is ‘forest bathing’?

Despite its name, forest bathing (or shinrin-yoku, as it’s known in Japanese) is not about having a soak outside in the elements. This form of nature-based therapy is about awakening all of your senses amid nature. You switch off completely, and become intensely aware of the beauty that surrounds. 

Where did it come from?

Forest bathing took off in Japan in the 1980s as a way to counteract a fast-paced, work-obsessed urban existence with nature-induced wellbeing. The Japanese understood – as we all have for centuries – that wandering in the wilderness makes us feel, well, good. Breathing in clean air, listening to wildlife, smelling flowers, seeing the world through un-polluted light – it’s the ultimate way to de-stress, relax and boost your mood. 

Forest bathing

Does it work?

Increasing scientific evidence backs this up: studies indicate time spent in nature can slow our heart rate and decrease blood pressure. Moreover, organic compounds released by plants (known as phytoncides) have been shown to positively impact our immune system, protecting us from illness and disease. 

How does it work?

While there’s a lot of flexibility, there are also some ground rules. You should leave technology behind, and be aimless and slow wandering through nature – this is not a hike or a race. A forest therapy stroll may take two hours, but cover less than one kilometre of trail. 

Where can I try it?

You can practice anywhere outside, really, at any time of day or in any season. A forest is lovely, but as long as you’re in nature, you can enjoy shinrin-yoku. While many people experience shinrin-yoku as an individual activity, a number of places offer guided sessions, which can be useful for first-timers. We often need help to slow down – we’re so used to going at full-speed, we don’t know how to do this.

What will a guided session involve?

Sessions generally begin with breathing exercises and sensory awareness activities – you focus on what you hear, what the air smells and tastes like, how sharp the sunlight is, how cool the ground feels. Then you may walk around you outdoor area. Slowly, and experiencing everything you encounter: touching tree trunks, dipping your toes in water, smell plants.

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