When I think 'bathing', a range of images come to mind: A hot candle-lit bath, a dip in the sea or a visit to the local swimming pool. If I'm pushing it, I may even conjure up images of a cold, calm eddy in a far away river. The word 'forest' doesn't immediately come to mind- so what is 'Forest Bathing' all about?
You'll be pleased to know that it isn't taking off your clothes and easing into the first muddy puddle you arrive at. Instead, Forest Bathing is a direct translation of the term 'Shinrin- Yoku'. A Japanese concept that began in the 1980s to help an overworked, overwhelmed, and exhausted population find a way to reconnect with nature and improve their health and wellbeing.
Forest Bathing takes place in a Forest; however, the bathing is none of the aforementioned images that sprung to mind earlier. Instead, it is a deep immersion into the forest air and the phytoncides that each tree produces and 'showers down' throughout the forest.
The word phytoncide' means 'exterminated by the plants'- referring to how these natural protectors have been proven to benefit human health. Research suggests that the long-term benefits of Forest Bathing include reduced stress, improved immunity, lower blood pressure and accelerated recovery from illness or trauma.
Walking through the forest under a shower of phytoncides is beneficial. Still, the wellbeing benefits are further enhanced when we quieten our busy minds and open our senses. When we listen to the birds' calling, we feel emotions arise in our hearts. When we taste the forest air and smell the aroma of the earth, we are reminded of our place in the forest and our right to be well.
Forest Bathing is more than just a walk in the woods; it's a holistic immersion, a reconnection with nature and a 'coming home' to the forest: the place we belong. It brings a whole host of benefits to our health and wellbeing, and, of course there is no need for a bathing suit and if you like, you can leave your hat on.