Forest bathing invites us to cultivate deeper relationships with the natural world, grounding and rejuvenating us.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have developed a closer relationship with nature. As the Japanese tradition of Shinrin-Yoku (or “forest bathing”) shows us, nature can reliably fill our cups when the rest of our lives brings adversity and stress.
The idea is to spend time slowly and intentionally soaking up the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings in a forest. This grounds us in the truth of our interrelatedness with all things.
Forest bathing has been proven to reduce stress hormones, lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve immunity, speed healing, and boost wellbeing and creativity. But above all else, the practice can develop a profoundly peaceful sense of being at home in the world.
Here are three guidelines for getting started:
1. Focus on Your Senses
The concept of forest bathing is simple: put yourself in a natural setting where you can lose track of any trace of human-made development and focus on your senses. But it is by no means easy to slow down and concentrate on what your five senses are showing you. It takes practice; be patient with yourself.
2. Release Expectations
There is no ideal outcome to forest bathing. There is no particular experience you “should” be having when you start building this relationship with nature. Try to simply let go of any expectations you may have and allow the experience to be whatever it is.
3. Don’t Go Too Far
Ideally, a forest bath should take two to four hours and have you covering no more than a kilometer. You’re not going on a hike, a walk, or a “workout”. Think of it as a slow, playful investigation of what’s around you. Your only “goal” is to spend time with the trees, the air, the soil, the water, the breeze, and whatever else you may encounter in the forest.