Forest Bathing has its roots in Shinto and Buddhist traditions and was developed in Japan in the 1980’s as a way of helping the number of workers, mostly based in city environments, who were experiencing chronic stress. Naming this practice” Shinrin-Yoku”, Japan has created over 64 official “Forest Therapy trails” since it’s conception, and the practice has since spread all over the world.
The practice is focused on immersing and connecting with nature, by utilising as many of your senses as you can through a series of activities called “invitations”. It’s about slowing down, becoming more aware of our natural surroundings and really bathing in the smells, sights, sounds and taste of nature. Noticing and really taking in the small things we tend to miss on walks or hikes.
The effects of forest bathing have been scientifically evaluated and studies have shown forest bathing can help to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, reduce blood pressure & improve focus, concentration and memory, amongst many other physical, mental and emotional health benefits.
It doesn’t have to be in a forest either. Once you have developed the skills and techniques of forest bathing, either by reading about the subject or being helped by a certified guide, you can experience the effects in a park, in your garden or whilst sitting in traffic in a car and focusing on trees on a roundabout. It doesn’t have to be green space either, as studies have shown it can be just as effective to experience “blue space” by water, whether this is the sea or brook, or standing in the rain.
If you’d like to see if forest bathing is for you then it’s best to start by attending a session with a certified Forest Bathing Guide. There isn’t a national register of guides, so you’ll have to search online to see who is closest to you. Check they are fully trained and certified as a guide and are also fully insured and have a certificate in outdoor first aid. There are also some good books on how to start your practice if you’d like to start with your own self-study. These include: -
· Your Guide to Forest Bathing by M Amos Clifford
· Forest Bathing (Haynes all you need to know in one concise manual) by Sarah Devos and Katriina Kilpi
· Forest Bathing Retreat by Hannah Fries.
But you can start by just slowing down a little when you next go out for a walk. Simply notice what is around you, the leaves rustling on a tree, long grass swaying in the wind, the sound of a robin, or the smell of a pine tree. Just simply notice and be present in that moment.
Calvin Silvester, one of our course facilitators, is a certified Forest Bathing Guide and founder of Connected Training. Further information about Forest Bathing, including links to the evaluations and studies can be found on his website www.connectedtraining.co.uk