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Forest Bathing - What it is and How to Do it

Researched, experienced, and written by Lyric Rosa-O’Hayer

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and Sociology Student at the University of Oregon, USA

Imagine that you are walking through a forest. You see the greenery around you, feel the breeze on your skin, smell the fresh scent of moss, and can hear the leaves brushing against each other. This is what it’s like to partake in forest bathing.

As explained by National Geographic, Forest bathing is a Japanese mindfulness practice that started in the 1980s, called shinrin-yoku which translates to “forest bathing.” Now this isn’t your typical bath and doesn’t require a body of water to complete.

Forest bathing is the act of taking in the forest atmosphere, and is a physiological and psychological exercise that utilizes your 5 senses to immerse yourself in your surroundings. This doesn’t have to be a super structured practice with a lot of experience, as the main goal is to connect with nature, so you could practice this within any natural environment.

If a more structured experience is what you’re looking for, however, there are people who are trained in guiding individuals on excursions that can last for a couple of hours.

In today’s society, most people do not take the time to connect with and be in nature even though it has been known for centuries how important being connected to nature is for a person’s wellbeing.

According to Time magazine, “By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors.” Forests are an integral part of nature and, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, forests cover almost one-third of the land on Earth.

“Over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for food or fuel, and some 70 million people worldwide - including many Indigenous communities - call forests home” (WWF). They provide habitats and are large components of ecosystems, prevent soil erosion, filter the air and water, and store carbon both within the soil and the tree itself.

The disconnect that we feel in society can be partially explained by the technology boom and the creation of large cities. These aspects of society cause us to be more disconnected from nature and forget its importance. By taking time to reconnect and be with nature through practices like forest bathing, we can allow ourselves to be reminded of its importance and in turn, heal ourselves.

People who have done forest bathing have said to me that it made them “see their surroundings in a different light,” and appreciate them more. They have also said that “most of the time they would just walk through and not acknowledge it," leading to them feeling lighter and more relaxed by the end of it.

Forest bathing can have these specific benefits:

● Improve concentration and memory

Reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms

● Lower blood pressure

● Enhance weight loss efforts

● Lower blood sugar levels

● Evoke anti-cancer protein production

● Increase pain thresholds

● Boost energy

● Strengthen the immune system

Rather than just reading and performing research about forest bathing, I booked a session with a bathing guide - Neil Doherty of NeDo Forest Bathing. I felt that living the experience myself, would support my research and further prove its benefits.

While it is possible to guide yourself on a walk through the woods, by you giving over the responsibility to a forest bathing guide that leads you and/or a group, you find that you will transcend to a deeper level of immersion you may not have been able to achieve on your own.

It was a couple of hours full of mindful bliss that set me up for the week ahead and something I will make time to do multiple times in the future.

It is now clear to me why both the Canadian and Japanese Departments of Health now cover forest bathing as a prescribed treatment for mental health. Thank you Neil for taking me on this journey!

In a world constantly seeking solutions to improve well-being, forest bathing emerges as a harmonious bridge between nature and healing. As scientific studies continue to unearth its numerous benefits, the serenity of the forest beckons—a place where modern stressors fade, and a sense of tranquillity takes root.

Forest bathing holds promise, not just as a momentary escape, but as a transformative journey toward a healthier, happier life. So, why not step into the embrace of the woods, breathe in the fresh air, and let the soothing symphony of nature guide you toward holistic well-being?

Researched, experienced, and written by Lyric Rosa-O’Hayer

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and Sociology Student at the University of Oregon, USA


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