Keeping the mind and body happy is an essential part of leading a long and healthy life. There are many ways to stay active physically, but keeping your mind in shape is just as important. One way to cleanse the mind is to practice “forest bathing.” This term comes from the Japanese words “Shinrin-yoku” which is the practice of spending time in the forest to enhance overall health, wellbeing and happiness. This custom beginning in Japan, has since been adapted all around the world. The trend of “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing” is becoming increasingly more popular and well known.
How exactly do you forest bathe? In a way you are essentially bathing your mind, body and soul by soaking in the atmosphere through your senses. You can even book a forest bathing guide, much like a yoga instructor, or practice on your own. It can be done through nearly all weather conditions, just be prepared and dress or pack accordingly. By simply being in nature, taking in the quiet sounds and stillness is an excellent way to start. Typically the denser the forest area, the higher the benefits. A quiet park or natural area will work too if a dense forest is not an option.
Find a comfortable spot where you feel safe and with minimal distractions. Leave the electronics behind or turn them off, this will make you feel more connected to your surroundings. You can either sit still in one spot, or slowly walk along while immersing your senses in the surrounding environment. Pay attention to the sounds, sights and smells around you. Touch the trees, leaves and soil to fully engulf each of your senses in the forest. Take slow, deep breaths and be sure to look up once in a while at the tree tops and sky overhead. Try to stay grounded and present in that moment while allowing your mind and body to fully take in the forest atmosphere.
There are several physical and emotional benefits that come from practicing forest bathing. Research has shown that the phenomenon increases energy, improves sleep quality and boosts the immune system. It can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure, reduce the production of stress hormones, increase the ability to focus and improve overall mood and wellbeing. So grab your hiking boots, leave the electronics behind, head into the forest and bathe your senses.