In the past year, getting outside and being in nature has helped me get through the tough times. There is something rejuvenating and comforting about wandering through the woods, listening to the sounds of the trees, seeing the sunlight peeking through the leaves, and breathing in the fresh air.
Forest bathing or ‘shinrin-yoku’ first emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise to offer an antidote to burnout. The research showed that two hours of mindful exploration in a forest had many health and wellbeing benefits, such as helping with depression, anxiety and stress, as well as improving concentration and memory.
There are no rules when it comes to forest bathing – it is as simple as going for a wander in your local woods or park or sitting under a tree in your garden. But rather than this walk just being about exercise, to really get the benefits of forest bathing, you need to connect with nature. Slow down your pace, look around, breathe deeply and fully enjoy the sensory experience of the woods through sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Think of forest bathing as a time to slow down, to be in the moment, enjoy nature, and stimulate your senses.
Forest Bathing Tips for Beginners
- Turn off your mobile – use this time to disconnect, relax and give yourself to the moment.
- Slow down your pace as you walk through the woods – take in the beauty, touch a tree trunk and feel the rough bark, listen to the birds chirping, notice the way the sunlight dances through the leaves.
- Take long deep breaths and pay attention to your breathing. I like to close my eyes, take 5 slow, deep breaths in and out, and then slowly open my eyes to take in my surroundings.
- Find a quiet spot and sit for a while. I love just taking in the sounds of the woods, from the rustling leaves of the trees to the birds.
- If it is dry, try lying on the ground and look up to the sky – watch the trees sway in the wind, the clouds drift overhead, and take in the calming green and blue hues all around you.
What I’ve learnt is – do what’s best for you. This is your calming experience and stay as long as you are comfortable. Yes, 2 hours is recommended, but if you only have 10 minutes, just being in nature will help you feel refreshed.
Forest Bathing to spark creativity
I also use my forest bathing sessions to jump-start my creativity when I’m in a slump. I head off into the woods or the garden and find a beautiful tree and get out my notebook and just scribble out my thoughts.
If you are struggling with what to write, why not start with jotting down descriptive words of what you see, things you are grateful for, or even your short-term goals, no matter how small.
You could also try writing a poem inspired by what you see. When I was at Westonbirt it suggested creating a haiku. The Japanese short-form poetry is usually written in three unrhymed lines with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern and has reference to nature.
Or why not sketch your surroundings and collect interesting leaves or flowers to press later.