A while ago I came across something called ‘forest bathing’.
Forest bathing. Yup, taking a bath in a forest. Not literally, I hasten to add, though it wouldn’t be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, to be fair. But I digress. Read on and I’ll explain.
Forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) is a Japanese practice that became part of Japan’s national public health programme way back in the ’80s, and it basically means to spend time in the presence of nature, and more specifically, trees. In a nutshell, the Japanese did loads of research back in the day and found that spending time among trees really helped promote physical, emotional and mental wellbeing by (among other things) boosting the immune system, reducing stress, relieving the symptoms of anxiety and low mood, improving sleep, and increasing energy levels.
Thing is though, it’s not about hiking in the woods, or scrutinising your fitbit as you walk; forest bathing is all about meandering through the trees in a relaxed way, being mindful of what you see and hear, and fully appreciating the beauty of the nature that surrounds you using all your senses:
BREATHING in the aroma of the bark, the leaves, the soil …
CONTEMPLATING that leaf, that twig, the diddy snail on the ground …
FEELING the breeze on your face and the crunch crunch of the leaves under your feet …
That sort of thing.
Sounds easy right? Essentially yes, BUT, we’ve become so used to living at a much faster pace than this that you might find it quite hard the first time to be that still and that unoccupied. Just to STOP and BE. No looking at phones, no hurtling along, no doing anything except looking around you and being present. But, like anything new in life, you just need a bit of practice to get the hang of it, then before you know it you’ll be bathing like a pro.
So, if you’ve been hibernating this bleak mid-winter and superglued to the nearest radiator as I have, it’s time to give it a go. Rumour has it the first snowdrops and daffodils are already out, meaning that Spring is well on the way, so dust off your wellies, wrap up, bundle the ankle biters in the car and go dip your toes in the nearest forest. If the Japanese are to be believed, you will not regret it.