You might not have a name for it, but chances are, you're already aware of that special, rejuvenating feeling that nature can stimulate in our souls, minds and bodies. Well, maybe you never realised it, but what you've been doing all along when you find peace in nature, is a version of Forest Bathing or Forest Therapy. This new way of recharging the batteries of life is sweeping through and taking the mindfulness and wellness sector by storm. In short, Forest Bathing is spending purposeful, restorative time in nature. That's all. Nothing complicated. However, just like sound baths, it's an increasingly popular way of bathing that rivals the traditional cure for stress: having a good bubble bath.
WHAT IS IT?
Forest Therapy is inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin yoku, which roughly translates as "forest bathing." With both physical and mental benefits, it's designed to stimulate creativity whilst you develop a mindful relationship with nature and it has the added benefit of helping you get active outdoors.
The idea that there is a healing power to be found in nature is not a new phenomenon; cultures throughout the world have long traditions of reverting to nature for solving physical, mental and emotional problems. As a society, we're spending a growing amount of time indoors, in poorly lit environments and many of us also live in nature-scarce cities. Our relationship with nature is at risk of diminishing and we need the time we are outdoors to be spent consciously. Yes, that means not checking work emails on our phones, while listening to podcasts on productivity or how to impress your boss.
Whilst Forest Bathing does get you up and moving, it is not exercise motivated. In fact, trying to combine it with a hike or jog would be missing the point entirely. So we've compiled a simple step by step guide to introduce you to the practice.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Step 1 - Make sure you leave your phone, camera, iPod, books and any other distractions at home. Forest Bathing is designed for you to be completely present and aware of your environment.
Step 2- Activate your senses. Be ready to use touch, listening, sight and maybe even taste or if you really tune-in: your intuition.
Step 3 - Don't make a plan. This includes refraining from setting time goals. Be slow and deliberate with your exploration without the restriction of arriving at a specific destination in the end. You should let yourself be guided by your senses. Do you hear a babbling brook that you want to explore? Then divert your path. Follow your curiosity and bliss.
Step 4 - Stop often to appreciate new offerings from nature as they crop up. Notice each new plant you come across. Smell the flowers ( just make sure you don't pick them), feel the texture of a leaf, the roughness of some bark or the smoothness of a stone. Run your fingers in the icy river water and scoop a handful to splash on your face.
Step 5 - Listen. Sometimes this is a sense best explored on its own, which may mean stopping and closing your eyes while you gradually become more aware of nature's noises. You might notice them becoming louder the longer you are waiting.
Step 6 - If you want to, why not incorporate your meditation practice into your forest bath? Be conscious of your breathing and how you are feeling. Are you noticing any aches and tension in your body? Are there any recurring thoughts that keep floating to the surface?
Step 7 - Seek. Ask nature for guidance. The forest can provide great wisdom, which is why people have traditionally gone out into nature on vision quests. As you wander, see what calls to you: stop, notice and ask yourself if there is a message or answer to one of your life questions in what you are seeing or feeling at that moment. Maybe you'll see a unicorn - we'll let you decide what special magical meaning that would have for you!
If you are interested in achieving greater awareness and the full therapeutic benefit from your sessions in the forest, we recommend that you check out www.natureandforesttherapy.org the website for the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides & Programs. They have a free starter kit and are an excellent information source. Find a guide near you – they are international- and enjoy a couple of guided sessions. The guides are trained to help you become more aware of your senses and to provide techniques that can calm today's crazy busy mind to provide a more heightened experience. Plus they can help you discover wonderful new places to explore!
We'd love to hear about any forest bathing experiences you've had and any other tips and tricks you want to share. Reach out to us in the comments section, or message us on our Instagram and Facebook pages.