You might have rolled your eyes a bit the first time you heard the term forest bathing, but keep an open mind as we answer the most pressing questions on the Japanese-inspired wellbeing therapy known as shinrin-yoku.
Start at the start. What is forest bathing?
It’s not taking a bath outside. While we’re definitely fans of a bit of outdoor hot tub time, forest bathing is actually about being in the woods and appreciating the sights and sounds of nature.
No nudity or water?
No, sorry. We suppose clothing is technically optional, but you’re supposed to be calmly enjoying the world, not trying to shut out laughter/screams/offers of help from passers by.
Clothes on, right. What’s it going to do for me then?
Forest bathing has been shown to have positive effects on both your physical and mental wellbeing. It lowers cortisol production and blood pressure, decreasing stress, improving your mood and even helping you sleep.
Sounds like it’s just meditation
Oh no, there’s also the mycobacterium vaccae, bacteria which affect the brain (in a good way), boost your immune system, and are present in soil in spades. No need to dig though, they’re in the air too. You’ll get more of them the more time you spend outdoors, just by breathing.
So it’s meditation with dirt
Well, if you like. But where some meditation practices use a point of focus like a candle or a mantra to keep the fidgety parts of your brain occupied, forest bathing uses the sounds of nature. You’ll find that once you get into it, your mind moves through layers of sound, following one after another.
Listen to trees, feel good. Got it
Hmmm, in a way. It’s important to free yourself from all distractions and give it some time and concentration, not just dial up your favourite Rustling Leaves playlist from spotify while you’re commuting. In fact, it’s best if you turn off the tech altogether.
No #ForestBathing selfies?
Ideally no. Try and focus entirely on all your immediate senses. Feel the wind, smell the earth and listen to the birds and the bees.
Need to be pretty remote, I guess
Definitely not. Even if you're stuck in the city you can reap the benefits. A 2019 study found that in cities, the larger the green areas around citizens are, the higher their wellbeing. Just find a small green space such as a park and settle in a comfy spot. Beware of a condition known as “frisbee in the face”, which could in turn lead to stress.
Do I have to be alone?
No, not at all. Group forest bathing can be a lovely experience, but everyone should agree in advance to keep silent for a certain length of time. There’s nothing like someone shouting, “are you relaxed yet?” to make you realise you’re not.
Ok, I might give it a try next time I’m out
You really should. It might sound like someone has rebranded walking in the woods, but when you do it right it’s quite a powerful, therapeutic experience and one of the things that makes glamping great. As big fans of all things arboreal we might be biased, but anything that creates such a deep connection with nature is always going to be fine by us, with or without a fancy Japanese buzzword. Happy bathing.
Simple steps for starters
Pick a quieter time of day
Find a good spot, even small green parks can have the same effect
Leave behind your phone, camera, music and any other distractions
Slow down; forget about time
Try and use all of your senses
Stay for two hours if possible (though you will notice the effects after twenty minutes)
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