What exactly is forest bathing? It’s a practice of immersing oneself in nature adopted from Japan. There, people practice shinrin-yoku, shinrin meaning “forest” and yoku meaning “bath.” No, you’re not actually taking a bath in the woods but rather bathing your senses in the forest.
There is a growing amount of research to show that forest bathing benefits your physical and mental health. It can help reduce anxiety, strengthen your immune system, help you sleep better, and more. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered during this time of Coronavirus stress, anxiety, and fear. Ready to try it?
You don’t need to have access to wilderness areas or outdoor parks to benefit from forest bathing. The basic principles of this activity can be applied anywhere, even from your home while you shelter in place. So let’s take a look at how you can practice forest bathing at home and benefit from this type of nature therapy during the quarantine.
Here are 5 steps you can follow to manage anxiety, reduce stress, and improve your health by forest bathing at home while you shelter in place:
1 – Find a Quiet Spot
The first step to forest bathing is to find somewhere that you can enjoy a healthy dose of solitude. This is your time to connect intimately with your natural surroundings and immerse yourself in the sound, sight, and feel of the outdoors. Try to stay as close to home as possible: your backyard, porch, deck, or a walk around the neighborhood is ideal.
2 – Leave Your Devices Behind
This is important. Leave your phone behind, out of sight and earshot, or keep it on airplane mode. You’re taking a break from the news, social media, and all the other distractions our screens provide. And while it’s important to stay informed about Coronavirus, it’s just as important to take a break from the constant barrage of information.
3 – Slow Everything Down
Forest bathing is not hiking; it’s not an exercise or a workout. The goal is to slow everything down and pay special attention to your surroundings. To do this, you can sit quietly on your porch or deck, wander slowly and aimlessly around your yard, or meander around your neighborhood streets.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savoring the sounds, smells, and sights of nature and letting the forest in.”Dr. Qing Li in Time
4 – Use All Five Senses
How often are we conscious of our five senses? When you forest bath, you’re actively using your sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch to connect with the environment. Get up close to the plants, trees, dirt, etc around you and bring each sense to your attention, one at a time, to experience your natural surroundings in new ways.
5 – Be Mindful of Details
When you take a closer look at forest bathing, it resembles an exercise in eco-mindfulness. If you followed the previous steps, you have found yourself in a quiet natural environment with no technology to distract you, and you’re beginning to tune into the minutiae of nature by using your five senses. Now, as you walk slowly and deliberately, take notice of all the details around you – the bark on the trees, the color of the sky, how the air feels on your face, the noises you hear and those you don’t, and the abundance of life around you.
If you’re looking for an easy way to relieve stress, forest bathing is it. You don’t need to travel to wilderness areas or state parks, you just need to tune into the natural spaces, however big or small, all around you. So the next time you feel anxious about what’s happening in the world, take 20 minutes to try forest bathing – we promise you’ll feel better afterward!
Siobhan traveled the American West as a National Park Ranger before setting down roots in Truckee. Outdoor adventure is her bread and butter and most days you can find her skiing, trail running, or backpacking. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram @siokenney.