“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” - Robert Louis Stevenson
Forest bathing is a mental and physical wellbeing exercise that emerged in Japan in the 1980s. The Japanese name, shinrin-yoku, can be directly translated into the English words “forest” and “bath.”
This exercise, as its name suggests, involves immersing yourself in nature and connecting to your surroundings through sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Unlike many organized outdoor activities that involve physical exercises such as hiking, sports, swimming, or jogging, forest bathing only requires your presence in nature.
Although forest bathing may seem intuitive, our growing disconnect from nature means that we are not taking the time to be present in nature as often as we should.
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir
In addition, there is mounting evidence that being outdoors can provide you with many benefits, such as anxiety and stress relief, decreased blood pressure and heart rate, increased physical activity, and increased creativity.
Forest bathing for Eco-anxiety Relief
So, Forest bathing is great to reduce stress, but what about the connection to Eco-anxiety? So many of us who feel deep concern about the state of the environment do so because of our love of nature and our belief that we are interconnected with the natural world.
However, this sense of connection can also bring with it feelings of grief for the harm that we collectively do to the planet, other species and humanity, present and future. So, integrating a ritual such as Forest bathing - and yes, it can be considered a ritual if it is a practice that we do regularly and to which we ascribe meaning - this ritual can help to heal our Eco-anxiety.
By immersing in nature, even for a short walk in a little wooded area, we can be reminded of the sacredness of our relationship with nature, trees, and all of life. It can be a practice that restores and regenerates us as we take in the smells, and sounds of the forest and touch that ancestral knowledge in us all that we are a part of this world.
And our appreciation of this connection also matters. It matters to us, and who is to say that it doesn't matter to the trees? Restoring ourselves is a path to restoring the planet. It gives us energy, hope and plenty of feel-good endorphins. If you can be active in nature, be present and mindful as you go, some time spent Forest-bathing, enjoying a trail, or simply walking or running or skiing in the woods can be a balm on your soul.
I know that it has been for me.
Want to give Forest-bathing a try? Here's how:
I would really love to hear your experiences of Forest bathing and how it has helped you with Eco-anxiety. Just use the comments page, and drop me a note!
Here are some resources on forest bathing for you to check out:
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