In Japan, people are taking “forest baths” to find peace and recovery. Taking a forest bath means immersing yourself in a forest for hours and soaking up its sights, smells and sounds. Here’s how you can dip a toe in this powerful practice known as shinrin-yoku.
If your outdoor life consists of walking from your car to your office, you’re not alone. In modern-day society, we spend close to 90% of our time inside. As a result, we’ve become more and more disconnected from nature and its potential to heal, nurture and provide sustenance.
In Japan – the world’s most densely populated country – walking mindfully through the forest has become a way of dealing with the stresses of fast-paced city life. Shinrin-yoku, which literally translates as “forest bathing”, is an officially recognised therapy in Japan. In fact, it’s an important part of the country’s national health care programme.
Forest bathing is believed to have powerful mental and physical health benefits. More and more research shows that simply being in the forest and absorbing its atmosphere with your senses has a restorative effect on the body and mind. Some of the science-backed effects of shinrin-yoku are reduced stress levels, improved sleep, increased focus and creativity, accelerated recovery from illness, a stronger immune system and a higher sense of overall happiness.
How to become a forest bather
Even a single forest bathing trip can help you slow down and relax your body and mind, but research suggests that you should go forest bathing every one to four weeks to fully enjoy the health benefits of shinrin-yoku. To get started, all you need is your five senses and a forest.
The Japanese use specially designated forests and therapy trails to practice shinrin-yoku, but you can essentially go forest bathing in any wooded area. You can take a forest bath in solitude, or you can go with others if that makes you feel more comfortable. Leave your phone at home, or at least make sure it’s turned off during your forest bathing trip.
Spend a few hours in the forest while doing nothing but fully experiencing your surroundings – the scents of the trees and the earth, the sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling in the wind, the touch of the sunlight on your skin as it falls through the trees. Just be present and let the forest work its wonders.