Taking a bath can be a great way to unwind at the end of a stressful day. The combination of warm water, maybe some bubbles and a good book somehow have the ability to make us feel a lot better. But did you know that some people relax by 'bathing' amongst nature, in an activity known as forest bathing? In this article, we take a look at what exactly forest bathing is, where it started, and why people do it.
What is forest bathing? Forest bathing – also known as shinrin-yoku in Japanese – refers to the act of being amongst a forest or greenery, and relishing in the feelings that can come along with being in a natural environment. Forest bathing is a personal experience, and as such there is no right or wrong way to go about it, but there are a few principles and values that the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy holds for a forest bathing experience, and which they teach their guides. These include opening your senses, and having the intention that you wish to connect with nature in a way that is healing, taking your time, and being fully present in the experience. When you wish to engage in forest bathing, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Try not to have unrealistic expectations around what the experience will bring, such as the mentality that you will emerge from your bathing experience never to feel stress again. Forest bathing is merely an exercise that some people use to help them manage the stresses of everyday life. Researching handy tips and steps for the practice may help you to get the most out of the experience. Some tips include locating a suitable spot for sitting down, establishing both an entrance and exit ritual that you can perform each time to help get your mind focused on the experience, and being aware of your surroundings, taking in all the forest has to offer. Where and when did it start? Forest bathing has its roots (pun intended) in 1980s Japan, where it was employed by working men and women to help alleviate the stresses that came along with a busy work life. Since then, it has spread across the globe, with countless people from countries all around the world incorporating the practice into their lives. The Association of Nature & Forest Therapy has trained over 600 guides, who are present across 40 different countries, which helps indicate just how far the practice extends around the world. Why do people do it? The feeling of being amongst greenery can make many studies of forest bathing have shown it can have some seriously positive health benefits. One study of middle-aged males showed results that suggested forest bathing had a number of relaxing effects, including lowered pulse rate and decreased scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety and confusion. A review of 143 included studies found that exposure to greenspaces had links to health benefits. The meta-analysis of these studies showed decreases in heart rate, diastolic blood pressure, and incidence of diabetes, amongst other elements. So, now you know a little more about forest bathing! With the feel good vibes it can bring, plus the many health benefits it has been linked to in studies, forest bathing could offer an enjoyably peaceful experience that’s as good as it feels! Next time you’re feeling a little stressed out or overwhelmed, why not unwind amongst nature and give forest bathing a go? All images remain copyright of www.wildfest.com.au / www.pixabay.com / www.abc.com.au