by Marc Richute
Humans have been forest bathing for years. Although it wasn’t called that; it was called living. However with the shrinking of the forest and the expansion of the cities, accompanied by demanding jobs which keep us indoors most of the day, we forgot about our need to experience nature. There are plenty of scientific studies that demonstrate the health benefits of forest bathing; reducing stress, boosting immune systems, and improving blood pressure. Yet I invite you to just try it simply for pleasure.
So what is forest bathing? The term forest bathing was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in the early 1980’s. In Japanese, shinrin means forest and yoku translates to bathing (or to take in). The concept of forest bathing is simple: find a park, trail, or any greenspace… and walk (20-30 minutes is sufficient). As you wander embrace everything your senses allow. There is no set method on how and when your senses will accept forest bathing, but it will happen. For instance, sight may be one of your first senses to experience the value of shinrin-yoku, or it may be smell. Additionally, it may be all of your senses simultaneously.
When I forest bathe in the woods my senses are first captivated by the superb scenery. I am delighted with the sight of lush green trees, mushrooms growing on fallen limbs, insects flying, and animals scampering around. All of my typical mundane life stresses disappear. The aromatic smells of pine, wildflowers, and the crisp, clean air are remarkable. I briefly stop to thoroughly identify and enjoy the smells; then it’s back to walking and bathing. The sounds of birds chirping in the distance, branches falling, and streams flowing takes my breath away. Touching the trees, weeds, pine sap, and feeling the mossy earth with my feet is transcendent. Taking a drink of water tastes better in the forest than it does in a cubicle. Better yet, if you have a water filtration system, drink from the stream. Refreshing!
As stated earlier, shinrin-yoku is an enduring straightforward idea, though vastly essential to our everyday well-being. Therefore I challenge everyone to go out and give it a try for a week; maybe a month or more. Jot down your observations and make note of all the progress. For example, you may feel less stress at work after a scenic stroll the night before, or perhaps that demanding meeting seems more manageable after a walk through the park during your lunch break. Whatever your job or schedule is, make time to forest bathe…it will cleanse your soul and keep you closer to nature.