Forest bathing is making its way into the news and for good reason. With time, humans have drifted away from nature and vast populations of the world spend their time in concrete jungles, in front of screens, staying inside their houses or apartments.
The detachment from nature has made people mechanical, lonely and it has also induced various stress-related syndromes. The EPA estimates people tend to spend almost 87 percent of their life indoors.
To get relief from stress-induced conditions and boost mental health, living in close proximity to nature is what scientists recommend. It was, of course, recommended by all our grandmothers for thousands of years beforehand. It may not be possible for most people to live in natural locations and forests. However, they can resort to a method called forest bathing.
What is forest bathing, actually?
Forest bathing has little to do with the practice of bathing. It is a Japanese tradition in which people spend time in the lap of nature, in a detached state from the urban elements. In the Japanese language, the practice is known as shinrin yoku. In recent times, the practice is catching up with people in the U.S. and many European nations.
The benefits of trying forest bathing
Through forest bathing, you let your mind and body get immersed in the natural environment. It calms down the mind and erases stress. The major benefits are:
- It relaxes the brain. Inside a forest, there is nothing like the deafening and annoying noises that are characteristic of urban life. Instead, you get to hear soothing sounds like the chirping of birds, or the occasional sounds made by wild animals and insects. The silence and calmness make your nerves and overall body relaxed. This can be ideal for people who are weary of the noise pollution in city life and the resultant stress.
- Forest bathing is good for your lungs and respiratory system. In urban settings, you breathe in polluted air for much of the time. Inside a forest, the pollution level is non-existent. You get the chance to inhale pure and clean air. It makes you feel good after some time.
- The natural sights, greenery, and wildlife soothe your eyes. It is a welcome break from the glare of TV and PC screens or of mobile devices.
- As forest bathing helps reduce the overall level of stress, it enhances your emotional wellbeing.
Those who resort to forest bathing experience long-term health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and cortisol levels, and mitigating irregular heart rates. It also gives a boost to the immune system.
How to practice forest bathing
You have to remember that forest bathing is not akin to running or jogging inside forests! These can also be good for health, but the core concept of forest bathing is tranquillity and slowness. The guided forest baths may take several hours, or be done at your leisure, as you please.
Here is how you should proceed:
1. Find an apt place
At first, you have to locate an apt location to practice forest bathing. It has to be away from the hustle and bustle of urban places. You may search online to find serene and green places where you can try this. It may not be a dense forest that is hundreds of miles away, but serenity and greenery are a must.
2. Pick the right time
The key to practicing forest bathing is to take it easy, take it slowly. So choose a day when you do not have any pending work or appointments. The duration may vary from half an hour to several hours, based on your situation. You may also try it for a few hours for 2-3 days every month, if possible.
3. Evade distracting elements
You should carry minimal and only necessary things when you go forest bathing. If you carry a cell phone, ensure you put it on silent mode and keep it inside a bag. Refrain from the urge to take snaps until the bathing is done. You may take some food and beverages (not intoxicating types.)
Observation is important
When you reach the location, find a suitable place to sit. Once you are sitting, try observing everything around you. It is time to make use of your sensory prowess. Minute details like the butterflies flying around, the colors of flower petals, or the chirping of a bird will catch your attention. Touching the trees and soil may also make you feel good. You may also try inhaling the natural aromas around.
You can practice forest bathing alone, but it is also okay to bring a few companions who also understand the meaning of forest bathing.