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How to use Forest Bathing to Manage Eco-anxiety

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:

  1. The first step is to find a spot. Forest bathing can be done wherever there are trees. This can include a nearby park, hiking trail, secluded forest, or even your backyard. It is important to choose a location and conditions that you can enjoy and feel comfortable in. For example, if you are a lover of rain and the soothing sounds it provides, align your forest bathing time with the weather forecast in order to enjoy your time spent in nature to the fullest.
  2. The second step is to prepare for your surroundings. It is beneficial to dress appropriately for the weather, as forest bathing can occur during all seasons and weather conditions. Having the appropriate clothing will ensure that you are able to focus your attention on your surroundings and reap the benefits of forest bathing.
  3. The third step is to leave unnecessary belongings, such as cameras and other electronics behind and focus on the present moment. Stopping to take a picture or engage in online activity will prevent you from fully connecting with nature. Keep in mind that it may still be a good idea to bring a cellphone with you for safety purposes, especially if you are forest bathing in an unfamiliar area on your own. In this case, make sure to turn your cellphone off in order to prevent distractions.
  4. The fourth step is to slow down your movements. The purpose of forest bathing is to connect with nature and engage your five senses. This means that there is no destination that you have to reach or set a path that you must follow. Let your body guide your movements, whether that means meandering through the forest or taking a moment to rest and be still.
  5. Lastly, it is important to engage your senses when forest bathing. Let yourself focus solely on your surroundings. Take mental note of the birds chirping and leaves rustling in the wind. Feel the forest floor beneath your feet and smell the earthy scents that surround you. Engage with the natural elements that attract your attention and bask in the joy and relaxation they provide you with.

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:

Forest therapy

Forest bathing

Nature and forest therapy

Japanese forest bathing

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