Keep your clothes on! Here, bathing implies immersion of another sort. Why? Research shows that forest bathing can:
- improve your mood, cognition and immune system function
- help you feel healthier and stronger and be more creative
- reduce stress
The term “forest bathing” or “forest therapy” comes from Dr. Qing Li, who coined the term “shinrin-yoku” in the 1980s. While there is an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy who certifies guides, here are some activities for your consideration to help you renew and strengthen your relationship with the forest and yourself:
- Walk and notice. What plants do you see? Stones? Winged friends?
- Follow an insect.
- Look for animal footprints.
- Sit and notice.
- Meditate near a tree or the water—or IN the water.
- Do yoga.
- Bring a hammock and lay in it for a while or skip the hammock and lay on the ground.
- Get to know a tree. Touch it, or better yet, hug it, breathe with it and thank it. Ask it a question. Listen for the answer. Visit it frequently to catch up and see how it is doing.
- Gaze at the stars.
- Watch the clouds above the treetops.
- Practice effortless attention.
- Take photos.
- Sketch what you see.
- Tune into the colors or shapes of your surroundings.
- Inhale. What do you smell?
- Write a poem or bring one with you and reflect on it.
- Make a mandala using the sticks, rocks and leaves around you.
- Bring a child. They are superb noticers!
- Have a simple picnic.
- Look at the qualities of light at different times of day, filtering through the branches, on a misty morning.
- Walk before, during or after a rain, or in the snow.
Dr. Hackenmiller shares that the practice of shinrin-yoku traditionally ends with a tea ceremony, perhaps using plants that have been gathered during your time in the woods. Be sure to identify the plant from at least three different sources, follow all local rules and regulations and collect leaves that are herbicide and pesticide-free and away from car traffic and power lines. Ask permission of the plant, and if you receive it, take only a few leaves from each plant (unless it is invasive) and offer something in return— some water, a song or a thank you.
After the tea steeps for 10 minutes, share the first cup with the land, then smell the tea and taste it. Allow one word to arise and share the word with whoever you are with or your journal.
“The Japanese Art and Science of Shinrin-Yoku/Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness,” Dr. Qing Li
“The Japanese Art of Shinrin Yoku/Forest Bathing,” Yoshifumi Miyazaki
“The Outdoor Adventurer’s Guide to Forest Bathing,” Suzanne Ballet Hackenmiller, MD