What? Taking a bath in the woods? This sounds weird.
Forest bathing is the practice of taking a short, leisurely visit to a forest for health benefits. The practice originated in Japan where it is called shinrin-yoku.
Why do we need to go to the forest? Think about it. Our ancestors did not spend this much time inside. We even go to inside gyms. How often are you outside? A few summer BBQ's? Running errands? A survey found that average Americans spend 87% of their time indoors and 6% in the car.....that's not much time left for fresh air.
Why does it feel good to be outside? It's engrained in your blood; it's good for your health. You will experience benefits such as lower stress, better memory, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, lower cortisol, increased immune function, and feeling more alive.
How does one forest bathe? Get outside, put down your phone, and soak up the sights, smells, and sounds of nature. This exercise can be done solo or in a group and is usually free.
Is it a nature walk? Not exactly. Nature walks focus on learning about what is around you. Is it a hike? Not really. Hikes focus on getting to a destination. It is much more laid back. You just slow down, notice things you can see and hear, move slowly, and take a break from your day. Experiencing a sense of awe when viewing natural beauty is good for the soul. Think of how you felt when you saw the Grand Canyon.
Some key things to remember: the goal is not exercise or getting your heart rate up. The goal is not to find a cool photo for instagram. The goal is not to go a certain distance. The goal is to simply slow down, pause, be present, take it in.
What if you don't live near a forest? Well....I am not a scientific expert on this topic, but I would imagine that if you went to the beach or to a lake or to the mountains or the desert, this also may work. Get to a place where you see mostly nature and not people or cars. Look for tall old majestic trees, catch an amazing sunset, take in the moon. Turn off your phone for 30 minutes. Get connected to the earth, gain perspective, breathe.
Is forest bathing the new yoga?
Top photo taken by me of a stranger in the Presidio. Bottom photo of me in Muir Woods inside a huge redwood.