“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off you like falling leaves.”
These words ring true today, 120 years after naturalist John Muir penned them in his publication “Our National Parks.”
Muir understood Forest Bathing before it was “a thing.” Having spent much time outdoors, he knew the healing benefits of nature first hand. And without the distractions of everyday life, he was able to fully immerse himself in the experience. You can too, and if you want to know how, just read on.
What the heck IS Forest Bathing?
Simply stated, Forest Bathing is a fully immersive practice that uses all of your senses to connect deeply with the surrounding forest. It’s not a hike, so no worries about your fitness level, and it doesn’t include taking your clothes off or dunking yourself in water (unless, of course, that’s your thing).
Preparing for your experience
Forest Bathing is for everyone. It’s not a strenuous walk, so you don’t have to train for it. And there are plenty of places that are wheel chair accessible, and folks of any ability can participate. You can forest bathe in any weather and you don’t need special equipment. You can see that there’s very little advance preparation needed.
First and foremost, decide if this is something you want to do on your own or with a group of friends and a guide. While you can venture out by yourself, using the tips in this article, a specially trained Forest Bathing guide will enhance the experience and your connection with nature, as well as add to your enjoyment.
Once you have decided, most of the prep is just common sense. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, but it’s not really a hike, and the terrain is generally gentle, which means you don’t need any fancy (i.e. expensive) hiking gear. You will be out for at least a couple hours though, so weather appropriate gear is essential. Be sure to bring water and (optional) snacks to enjoy on the trail. And, while some might disagree with me, you can bring a camera and your journal to chronicle the experience.
While a Forest Bathing experience with a trained, professional guide will definitely enhance your experience, adding mindfulness to your solo walks in nature can help you connect to the forest in a much deeper way. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Pick a short, level path, preferably near water.
- Get rid of the distractions. Leave your ear buds at home. Turn your phone to silent – you can still use it as a camera if you want.
- Take a few deep breaths before you start your walk. This will help quiet the mind and let go of any chatter going on in there. If it’s comfortable to do so, you can go barefoot, even just for part of the walk.
- Set an intention for the day. Yours might be to be open to whatever experiences come your way during Forest Bathing. Or you might go even deeper. Up to you.
- Standing still, connect with each of your senses, individually.
- Now, spend some time getting to your destination, no need to rush. Continue to use all your senses to notice what you notice along the way.
- Once you’re at your destination, spend some time there either writing or in quiet. This is a time to nurture yourself.
- When you feel it’s time, begin to make your way back to where you began, this is the time for taking pictures if you want.
Get more with a Guide
A trained and experienced Forest Bathing Guide will up the enjoyment factor, as well as the benefits, immeasurably. Not only will the guide answer any questions you may have about the process, they will help you to connect with the forest even more deeply through your senses. Guides will invite your group to participate in certain activities that will make the experience unforgettable, including ending with a forest tea ceremony. I don’t want to give away all the secrets. Experience it for yourself!
Benefits of Forest Bathing
Much has been written about the benefits of being in nature. Additionally, study after study shows the benefits of a mindfulness practice. Combine the two, and you’ve got Forest Bathing. Here are just a few of the many benefits:
- Decreased stress, anxiety, depression and aggression
- Increased happiness, joy and sense of awe
- Increased focus, creativity, attention and memory
- Improved heart and lung health
- Ability to choose your response to tense situations, instead of just reacting
- Improved mood and self-esteem
- Improved sleep
- Better immunity, so important these days. I could go on and on about this, but I’ll leave that for another post.
- A deeper appreciation of nature and the need to protect our natural resources
Gather your friends and family, and experience the healing power of Forest Bathing for yourself. Give yourself a gift of a guide – just contact me and get ready for a guided Forest Bathing experience you won’t soon forget. As John Muir so aptly put it, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”