The crunch of needles and twigs underfoot. Dappled, dancing sunlight over your face and feet. Cool mist clinging to branches above. The smell of damp earth, rotting wood, and citrusy evergreen needles. Stepping foot into the forest makes our senses come alive.
There’s something transformative about crossing over that threshold into the cover of trees, where you become immersed in another ecosystem, another world filled with sights, sounds, and smells unique to the community of plants, minerals, and animals that exist here. Our energy shifts, our body feels different, and our mind begins to clear.
The practice of immersing oneself in the world of the woods is well known and regularly practiced in Japan, where it is beautifully referred to as shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’.
So perfectly named, forest bathing is quite literally the act of allowing your body, mind, and senses to be surrounded by and steeped the full sensory experience of the forest. Forest bathing is not a hike, or a form of exercise. Rather, it is a practice of intentionally taking time to be quiet, to wander, to sit, breathe, and listen among trees, ferns, birds, and understory.
Many studies (like this one) have proven that time spent in nature has real physiological benefits to our minds and bodies. Research links spending time in nature with reduced risk of health issues including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stress, and high blood pressure. And while we inherently know that spending time outdoors just feels so good, these scientific findings make more sense now than ever. Our culture of glorified busyness, endless screen time, and mounting daily workloads creates stress on our brains and bodies, which can cause our natural cortisol levels to increase and affect our body’s ability to feel and function well. Taking time to intentionally unplug from the daily stressors of life and tune back into the rhythms, energies, and simplicity of nature is necessary for our overtaxed brains and bodies to rest and decompress.
The best part of forest bathing is that it’s free and accessible to anyone. You don’t need special gear or equipment, and you don’t need to travel deep into a remote wilderness to experience the benefits of immersing yourself in nature.
How to practice shinrin-yoku or forest bathing:
Find a location outdoors. A forest, a park, greenspace, wooded area, or even a simple stand of trees in your backyard. Give yourself time to just be. No phone, no headphones, just your body. Meander through the trees or green space and begin to tune into your senses. Notice the changing scents, crush a leaf or a sprig of green between your fingers and inhale. Feel the texture of earth beneath your feet. Touch the rough bark of a spruce, the soft needles of a hemlock. Listen to the sounds of water moving, wind in branches, or soft silence. Maybe find a soft mossy patch to sit and rest and observe the world around you. Notice how you feel in these moments and allow yourself to be fully present in your body. What an incredible thing!
Make this practice your own. Adapt it in any way that serves you. “Bathe” in any natural environment you have accessible. The benefits come from surrounding yourself with nature and giving yourself time and space to rest and observe.
For those times when you can’t find the time or energy (or daylight, *ahem*… winter in Alaska) to get out into the trees, reach for your favorite item in the Forest Collection to bring the sensory experience of the forest home into your bath tub and body care routine.
As with any exercise in mindfulness, the more you return to this practice, the more you'll notice the subtle changes occurring within you. A deeper and more accessible sense of calm, peace, and tranquility. A grounded energy and stronger intuition. A clearer mental focus, a sense of ease throughout the body. A happier, healthier you.
Happy Forest Bathing my friends! May you be well and wild with nature.
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