It may sound strange, but a new activity is captivating imaginations and inspiring thousands of people to get outside and enjoy the health benefits our trees can offer: Forest Bathing.
Just the same way you would bathe in water or bathe under the sun, Forest Bathing is the practice of lying, or walking, among the trees to enjoy the benefits they bring to your physical and mental well being.
The practice, which originated in Japan (where it is called shinrin-yoku) is more familiar to us than we might first think. Though it may not have an official name here in the UK, walking in nature has long been a favourite pastime; with many of us enjoying woodland strolls and wildlife spotting as a way to unwind.
And we know relaxing in nature isn’t just a fun day out. Spending dedicated time in the company of trees has been proven to be good for our health. Trees are the Earths original air cleansers; soaking up city pollution, helping to cool increasing urban temperatures, and pumping out fresh new Oxygen which literally keeps us alive.
A thriving forest is not only one our cheapest (not to mention prettiest) tool for carbon offsetting, and a vital space for biodiversity to thrive, it also provides the natural resources we need to survive.
Converts to Forest Bathing also claim the practice is good for your mental well being. It has shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and can be very healing for those needing to switch off from the world and reconnect with themselves.
With almost 80% of us now living in urban communities, and fewer households enjoying their own green spaces, our time among the trees is declining. We now spend more time looking at screens than leaves, and climbing public transport escalators than branches on a tree. Have we lost our connection with nature, our community green spaces or even worse: ourselves?
If you feel like you see more grey than green, struggle to breathe in stuffy cities, or simply find it hard to still your mind, maybe Forest Bathing is for you!
5 steps to urban Forest Bathing
Find a park, urban forest or wild woodland near you.
Research your trail options based on how much time you have to spare; whether you’re looking to ‘bathe’ for 5 minutes, or 5 hours.
Switch off your phone or leave it at home. This is a time to switch off from the world and enjoy quiet time in nature.
Awaken all your senses. Take slow deep breathes in. Notice the clean air. Stand still. Listen to natural sounds around you. Look up. See the wildlife in the trees and count the varieties of green. Touch the bark of the biggest tree you can find. Marvel at its ancient strength and hidden history.
Do it regularly. It may not come up high on your weekly to do list, but Forest Bathing is something you should try to incorporate into your life. Even if you tie it in with a weekend walk with friends, or take running away from the treadmill and into the park.