Forest Bathing is a Japanese practice of relaxation, known in Japan as shinrin yoku. Essentially, it’s about being calm and quiet amongst the trees, taking in the nature and sounds around you whilst breathing deeply, to help de-stress and boost health and wellbeing.
Liz Dawes, aka The Forest Guru, runs Forest Bathing classes in Yorkshire (she’s currently doing these virtually on Zoom) and told us all about the benefits, and how we can practice Forest Bathing at home.
“Stress and anxiety weaken our immune system,” says Liz, “leaving us more vulnerable to viral infections, and many studies have found that being in nature stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, which allows our bodies to relax and repair.”
“We can also support our immune system by spending time around trees. When we breath in phytoncides, the essential oils that trees emit, there is increased activity of our ‘natural killer cells’, which can help eliminate tumours, viruses and bacteria in our bodies. Also, the lingering of viruses doesn’t happen outside in the same way as it does in buildings. So, in these uncertain times, there are many reasons to spend time in nature, whilst maintaining the recommended two metre distance from others.”
Usually, Forest Bathing takes place in woodland but for now, you can either take some time out during your daily exercise to do some Forest Bathing or pop out into the garden. If you can be near trees, even one tree, or just see them, great, but just being out in the fresh air, and taking in the nature around you is enough to feel the benefits.
How to do it
During your daily walk, slow down. Find some space to stop for 5 minutes and awaken the senses. Concentrate on your breathing, feeling that connection to the earth beneath you. Touch the ground, getting a sense of the textures of the earth or grass. Then bring your attention to your sense of smell and notice all scents in the air. Move your head from side to side. Notice what tastes are present in your mouth. Connect to the sounds - noticing all sounds, birds, wind, water, even manmade sounds.
You can do all this in your garden too. Even better in the garden, you can walk bare foot. Earthing (or grounding) in this way also brings a host of benefits including better sleep and reduced pain.
If you can’t be outside, there are still ways in which you can introduce calming nature into your day.
• If you have house plants, really spend time looking at and tending to them.
• On your computer screen, you might want to have a natural screen saver – trees, mountains, rivers, and on the lock screen on your phone.
• Look out of a window. If you can look out on to trees even better. Having a view of nature from a window makes people feel better and reduces stress.
Some advocates of Forest Bathing are calling for it to be prescribed on the NHS, so it’s certainly worth giving it a try – perhaps it will become a new hobby?
To find out more about Liz Dawes and Forest Bathing visit www.theforestguru.co.uk.