Forest bathing? Yes, it’s a real “thing,” and even Kathryn, Duchess of Cambridge, made headlines as “a strong advocate for the proven benefits the outdoors has on physical and mental health.” Her Back to Nature Garden is a hit whose benefits you can duplicate wherever you live.
Here’s how you can get back to nature and make forest bathing work for you.
Just 120 Minutes a Week?
According to a study of nearly 20,000 people, getting back to nature for no less than 120 minutes will help you feel better, and you don’t have to exercise to gain healthy benefits. All it takes is contact with mother Earth.
It doesn’t matter how you achieve 120 minutes of contact with nature—nature bathing. You get the same benefits from one long versus several short visits a week. Surprisingly, scientists found no added benefit of spending more than 120 minutes in the great outdoors.
Don’t take your clothes off for this!
Forest bathing isn’t about filling your tub with water outside in the woods and lathering up.
The Japanese invented shinrin-yoku about 40 years ago to help stressed-out workers. Shinrin-yoku translated means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.
Think of forest bathing as nature therapy. Think of escaping to green, lush getaways where time slows and stress melts away. Think about the sensation of sand or grass beneath your feet. Smell the fresh air. Feel the breeze on your face. Remember running through the fields at your grandma’s house? Remembering fishing by a stream with Dad?
In fact, the researchers note that “we can potentially ‘re-live’ our experiences of the natural world in memory, for instance during periods of ‘mind wandering,’ and derive benefits from these recollections independent of those experienced in situ.”
That means you can draw upon the memories of one good forest bath for a long time. Even just thinking about spending time in nature has its benefits.
Your Nature Bathing Cheat Sheet
Here’s a cheat-sheet I wrote for beginners. You might want to take it with you into the great outdoors. It’s not just tongue-in-cheek. When you’re really stressed, hug a tree!
- Turn off your phone and turn on your senses.
- Find an outdoor place . . . the woods are great, but a place with trees, or grass and a park bench, or a sandy beach will be fine.
- Be mindful of your place and how you feel.
- Concentrate on your five senses of touching, hearing, smelling, tasting and seeing. When you turn off the technology and move deeper into a natural setting, you can better tune in to yourself.
- Sit on the ground if that feels comfortable. Or, walk. Or, just stand still. Breath slowly as you take in the view, and exhale slowly as you let go of deadlines, expectations, responsibilities, and anything that weighs you down emotionally.
- You might want to say, “Goodbye job, goodbye worries, goodbye bills. I won’t think about you for now. You’re not welcome in this place.”
- You’ll feel lighter as stress is replaced with new, natural feelings. We were meant to be part of nature. Feel the closeness. Feel relaxed and at peace with the natural environment.
- Notice that it smells different here. Fresh scents . . . earthy scents . . . green, living scents.
- Touch a tree. Seriously. Feel the bark.
- Maybe you’re so tense you’ll need to touch a lot of trees.
- Maybe you want to walk barefoot. Or, slip off a shoe and dip your toes into a creek or the ocean.
- Watch the leaves move as the wind blows, sometimes gently and sometimes wicked.
- Do you notice you’re breathing more slowly?
- Stay focused on the present. If you’re having trouble living in the moment, hug another tree! Do whatever it takes to drink in the peace nature is offering, free and easy, every day.