Everything you need to know about forest bathing

Lynn Cardy
Photo credit: PamelaJoeMcFarlane - Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

Trying to find a little calm and some clear head space is so tricky these days that the effort of chasing it is likely to stimulate yet more stress. If yoga isn’t cutting it and meditation feels like a stretch, forest bathing could be your way to turn off the mind chatter and find some genuine peace. Here's what you need to know about it...

What is Forest Bathing?

Well… put simply it’s a way of slowing the pace right down by immersing yourself in the naturally calming atmosphere of the forest. Sounds Scandi but for once it isn’t. This soothing therapy was developed in Japan where research discovered that a couple of hours spent mindfully exploring a forest could bring all kinds of wellbeing benefits.

Forest bathing: Why so good for us?

Forest Bathing helps lower blood pressure, ease stress, up concentration and improve memory. As an interesting add-on, researchers also found that trees give off compounds with an anti-microbial effect which helps boost our immune system. Forest Bathing creates the perfect storm of movement, mindfulness and being in nature – all guaranteed to help us wind down and stop stressing.

Photo credit: Tanja Esser / EyeEm - Getty Images

Forest bathing: Where can we do it?

Mmm… first find your forest. Or maybe a wood or some parkland with wooded areas. A session should last 2 hours for maximum benefit so you get the idea on size. The National Trust and Forestry England can help here with great suggestions and Forest Bathing tips.

Forest bathing: What if we’re newbies?

Or maybe you don’t trust yourself to get into the vibe of meditation, mindfulness and more?Well, you could join a trained Forest Bathing guide and as part of a group, head for the forest/wood and be guided through a session that would ensure that you go through all the right moves.

Forest bathing: What happens in a session?

A group session can be anything from 1-3 hours, include different elements and the pace will be slow. “This is often a surprise,” says expert Forest Therapy guide Caitlin Keddie. “But much needed for those living or working in high stress environments,” In her sessions Caitlin includes...

  • Meditation to awaken senses and draw attention to breathing. A great way to begin to slow down, become fully present and let any stresses melt away.
  • Gentle walking at a pace where you take notice of what is around you more closely or your different senses.
  • Coming together occasionally through the session you share anything you notice or experience in a non-judgemental way.
  • Creativity some walks feature expressive arts using natural found materials, reading nature based poetry or time to reflect on your own nature connection.
  • Resting at the end of the session to enjoy a moment of quiet, the forest atmosphere or in Caitlin’s sessions – a tea ceremony. “Forest Bathers often remark on how relaxed they feel after a session and how they have been able to forget about time and everything else going on,” says Caitlin.

Caitlin Keddie is a certified Forest Therapy Guide Founder of Forest Therapy Scotland. Find guides near you here. Forest Bathing/therapy sessions cost from around £20 per person.

Forest bathing: Want to go it alone?

Not all of us are group tree lovers and prefer to strike out alone. Don’t stress if you feel you’re not getting it right or not filling the two hours. A few minutes is better than none. It’s all about spending time with trees in a mindful way.

  • Find a wood. And walk among the trees. Keep your pace slow, see the wildlife, the movement of the branches, the light and shade. Touch the bark, feel the leaves. Really notice things. (Well done that’s mindfulness)
  • Find a place to sit for at least 30 minutes and just breathe, look up at the canopy of branches, experience the sunlight, the shade, the breeze. When thoughts come, acknowledge them but don’t allow them to linger. Just brush them away. (Well done you’re meditating)
  • Find your way back through the wood and while you do, think about how you feel. Less stressed, a little calmer, tension head gone, encouraged to forest bathe again? (Well done that’s reflective practice – good for self-awareness) Repeat your trip to the woods as often as you can.

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Photo credit: Hearst Owned

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