Taking a hot soak in the tub is definitely a good way to relax, but there is another kind of de-stressing bath that is getting a lot of attention lately.
It’s called forest bathing.
Now before you start picturing yourself running around the woods looking for a stream to jump in, let me tell you what forest bathing actually means.
Shinrin-yoku, translation “forest bathing”, is a term created by the Japanese government in 1982 to encourage people to go outside. The idea is to get out of the urban jungle and go to one with real trees. It’s based on the concept that being in the forest has a healing effect on both the mind and the body.
This is not a new or fleeting idea.
Back in the 5th century Hippocrates was talking about the inherent healing power of nature.
Fast forward to 1973.
Psychologist Eric Fromm coined the term “biophilia”. No it’s not an exotic plant or some new addition to your yogurt. It was the word he used to describe human beings’ attraction to all that is alive and vital. It was later expanded upon by American biologist Edward Wilson as a subconscious attraction towards nature and other living things.
People are naturally attracted to the outdoors and nature. We’re hard wired to connect with other living things.People are naturally attracted to the outdoors and nature. So go outside and connect with other living things. Click To Tweet
That’s cool except when you consider that for many people the closest they get to nature is a breathtaking photo on their screen saver. Most people work indoors, often without a window and then they return home after a long day to spend time in front of the TV.
So what can being out in nature do for you?
Studies show that forest bathing can lower blood pressure and heart rate and boost your immune system. It increases your sense of well-being and relaxation. And it can enhance creativity. Nature has always been a source of inspiration for writers and artists.
He’s the guy who said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” and a bunch of other profound things. His classic book Walden, published in 1854, tells the story of Thoreau’s two year experiment in simplicity living on his own in the woods near Walden Pond.
How much time do you spend outdoors?
When was the last time you took a walk in the woods?
When I think about my most restorative places and experiences, they always involve nature and the outdoors…the sounds of the birds in the morning, walking the Tuscan countryside, sitting on the deck at the beach house watching the world float by or tending to the plants in the garden.
Being in tune with nature helps us to be more in tune with ourselves.
It also helps us have a greater sense of life balance. In the outdoors, things just seem in better perspective. There’s a sense of being grounded as we are reminded about the interconnectedness of things.
When you are in the forest, it’s simply quieter.
You are able to hear the sounds of nature that get drowned out in the midst of a busy world. It’s something I always notice after a walk in a park or on a path in the woods. Once you re-emerge, the sounds of urban life just seem a little loud and jarring.
So how can you take a forest bath?
Go for walk where there are trees. Find a nearby park or a path and get closer to nature.
Walk at a contemplative pace.
Indulge your senses.
Listen for the wind in the trees, the singing of birds, the sound of water.
Notice the smells.
Touch the leaves, run your hands over the bark, pick up a stone.
Stop for a bit. Take an inspiring book to read. Write in a journal or sketch a drawing.
Or simply sit for a few minutes.
Here’s the thing:
You already have a habit of taking a bath – or shower – to wash away the accumulated dirt of the day.
Think of this as a new habit that lets you cleanse away your stress.
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ps a version of this article was first published in my community blog Life Goes On for the St. Albert Gazette.