Forest bathing – Soaking up green spaces for mindfulness

Forest bathing may sound a little ‘new age’ but it’s a centuries-old practise that gained prominence in the 1980s as a form of therapy. With its roots in Japanese preventative and curative medicine, ‘shinrin-yoku’ has been shown by research to reduce stress, promote relaxation and have wide-ranging health benefits.

What is shinrin-yoko, also known as forest bathing?

Shinrin-yoku literally translates to ‘forest’ and ‘bath’. It relates to a feeling that we have probably all experienced when surrounded by nature – among mighty trees, dappled sunlight illuminating the scene, the sounds of the breeze in the branches, the scents of a forest and breathing in fresh, clean air.

How to make the most of forest bathing

No matter the season, forests are beautiful, even magical, places. It does not matter if it is warm, cold, raining or even snowing. The forest and the experience of being within it change all the time – with the weather, the time of year and time of day.

Practising forest bathing is not about exercise. It’s about connecting with nature through each of our senses and allowing ourselves – and our minds – to wander aimlessly and slowly.

Take the time to sit for a while and do nothing but listen to the birds singing, the leaves rustling, the babbling of a nearby stream. Dip your hand or toes into the water and focus on the sensation. Breathe in the fragrances of the forest

You can take a forest bath on your own and with others. Leave your mobile phone behind to avoid distractions. If you are with company, resist the temptation to chat and simply concentrate on what will be your shared experience. Perhaps you can then discuss how you felt at the end.

You can also take sessions with a guide but forest bathing need not cost anything and is just as enjoyable alone. It need not be a forest either. You can practise the techniques of shinrin-yoko in any green space be it a park, woodland, around a lake or even your own garden.

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