Random fact about me: I love bathing. In the bath with bath salts and candles and a good book. In the sea, be it English shores or overseas. Even a quick dip in a river. When we lived in North Yorkshire, I enjoyed the occasional dip in the River Swale.

This year I’m adding a new form of of bathing to the list. Forest bathing.

Forest Bathing, What’s That Then ?

Literally translated from the Japanese  shinrin-yoku,  forest bathing or nature therapy, is the practice of spending time with nature in order to create a relaxed state. A feeling of well being. The idea is to be present in the moment, immerse in your surroundings and calm your mind. Studies have backed up the idea with science; intentionally spending time outdoors can lead to better physical and emotional health.

Japanese researcher and author Yoshifumi Miyazaki has spent three decades researching shinrin-yoku and has concluded that the benefits go far beyond a sense of peace. As humans, we were designed to live in the natural environment. The man made environment doesn’t provide what we need to thrive. Getting back to nature shouldn’t be seen as indulgent. It’s really getting back to our true selves.

Navigating our way through a worldwide pandemic, I think we’ve all become a lot more aware of our health and how precious it really is. Ironically, lots of the things we’ve had to do to safeguard our physical health-social distancing, isolation, mask wearing – has had a crushing, negative impact on our emotional well being. Finding a place of sanctuary and peace is more important now than ever.

I touched on this in my post about ditching resolutions and having a January recharge instead. You can’t always control events unfolding around you, but you can nurture yourself and manage the impact.

How Do You Do It?

I’m not an expert, just a cheerful enthusiast. But I think the key is to be intentional and to embrace the experience to get the most out of it. A few things to think about might include…

  • Find a location that appeals to you. Despite the name, it doesn’t have to involve a forest or woodland. Any green space will do- a garden, a park, even a graveyard!
  • Dress for the weather, especially if you intend to stay out for a little while. It’s hard to enjoy the experience if your hands are cold or your just getting soaked.
  • Mindfulness is key, but it can be hard to switch off. I try finding something to see, something to touch, a sound and a scent. It feels really forced at first, but gets easier.
  • Focus on your breathing. This is a tricky one, I’ve tried yoga and could not do any kind of controlled breathing. But a few deep breaths and concentrating on making your exhale longer than your inhale really does make you feel better. No idea why, but give it a go. Thank me later.
  • Make time to do it regularly. Because mindfulness gets easier the more you practice it, and because you deserve time out in a place that you enjoy. On that note…

Forest Bathing Inspiration

Places I’ve been that lend themselves to a bit of nature therapy, in the U.K and beyond include…

Local Area: I’m lucky enough to live on the edge of Salisbury Plain so I’ve plenty of woodland and fields to wander, not to mention local walks like the Bulford Kiwi. When the Plain is busy with military exercises I’ll head else where; maybe to a historic church yard . What’s on your doorstep?

Brecon Beacons National Park: Forest, mountains and waterfalls and miles of rugged open space. Climbing Pen Y Fan is optional, but a great experience.

Horesell Common, Surrey: A recent discovery for me, but a lovely place. Very dog friendly too, if you like to go about your day with some four legged company, as I do.

Herren Hausen Gardens, Hannover: My favourite and often visited gardens from my time spent in Germany.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh: The Royal Botanical Gardens are only a few miles from the bustle of Edinburgh city centre, but it’s a different world. The best thing here is that several gardens have been created in vast, heated green houses. Perfect when the weather isn’t playing the game.

Kielder Water & Forest: The largest forest in England, home to some stunning wildlife and a a great place for star gazing. Winner!

The Harz Mountains, Germany: Miles of open space, forest and mountains.

I hope I’ve inspired you to give forest bathing a go, or even just to get outdoors a bit more. Even in January. It can be hard, can’t it, when it’s chilly and a bit grey. Hang on in there though, Spring will be here before we know it.

Helen x

30 thoughts

  1. I’m lucky enough to have access to several nearby woods, and I’ve been enjoying them for some years. I guess I was ‘forest bathing’. Though since that became ‘a thing’, I have tried to approach the experience even more mindfully. A mossy fallen trunk at seat height helps no end!

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  2. This is a very interesting and inspiring read, Helen. We are currently lucky to be based in a small English village with plenty of woodland and countryside walks on our doorstep. When we stayed in more urban environments, then we chose parks, nearby mountains and cemeteries. You gave some really good tips for mindfulness practice – focusing on sounds really works for me. Regarding bathing and masterful Japanese ideas, I have to mention the onsen experience. Especially outdoor baths in winter months!

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    1. Mindfulness can be tricky, I need a sound or a texture to get me focused. I’m not great at switching off. I’ve been reading about the onsen experience, I’d love to give it a go. I know there are spa treatments based on the idea available in the UK, but I’d rather the authentic experience. One for the list!

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  3. I was just looking at a lovely post about Newfoundland, but the skies were grey, grey ,grey! Back in the UK we would drag ourselves out in all weathers because I’m very much an outdoors lady, but I hated being cold. It is such a privilege to be outside every single day here, barring illness. It is so restorative to breath in the natural world. Spring is in full bloom here, but it will reach you soon.

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      1. I can cage the dog and not be frowned upon. I bring those kids, we are stuck with them…

        Not sure about the dog myself some days, but he’s one of mine now so we crack on!

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  4. I do like a woodland walk, not sure my dog would let me lie down and relax in a forest. I think he goes with me just about everywhere. πŸ™‚ We did enjoy a nice saunter through Skipton Castle Woods recently.

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  5. I’m yet to do forest bathing. I love being outside in nature, I find spending time once a week either at the beach, woods or mountains does wonders for me and gives me that uplifting mood. Lovely read and thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, it really is a nice way to get focused on enjoying the here and now… something I’m not always very good at! Wiltshire is a lovely area of the UK and I’ve enjoyed calling it home for a little while. Where about are you based?

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  6. Absolutely beautiful post! I love forrest bathing! I have always found that I become almost instantaneously relaxed when I’m outdoors. This post does a wonderful job explaining what it is and how to do it. Very nice read! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  7. Great post Helen! I usually get anxious reading about relaxation, yup, I get stressed thinking about relaxing! However, reading through your post, I actually relaxed and visualized exactly where I wanted to be, by the frozen lake in the mountain! I’m just like you, trying to focus on breathing in yoga or meditation class is a no-go! I think this is going to be my new way of meditating and recharging! Thank you πŸ™‚

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    1. I hope you can keep that place with you for whenever you need the space. Thank you so much for dropping by and taking the time to comment, truly appreciate it.

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    1. It does get busy up there, doesn’t it? We last walked it on a snowy weekend with Storm Arwen sweeping the nation thinking it would be quiet, it was still busy. There’s always a place to find a moment, though, and you can lose yourself in the views.

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  8. I’ve never consciously tried Forest Bathing but I do enjoy being in nature::I like to be outside every day, whatever the weather, usually with Zeph! There’s definitely something mindful about being in nature. My latest post is about my happy place which is near water.

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    1. Being outdoors is good for the soul, like you I’m out every day with the dog. It’s the easiest way to lift ourselves away from the manmade distractions like internet and social media. There’s a place for those things…but good to get the break!

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  9. Like the sound of Forest Bathing. Just taking time out to be yourself and relax in beautiful surroundings is so healthy and calming. Keep clear of Salisbury Plain on exercise days though, not too calming!!

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    1. I know, for such a big space it does get busy and noisy! I’ve learned to read the signs. When the portaloos get sited, there’s a big exercise coming. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

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  10. I seriously love this post, and the idea of forest bathing! When we take trips to the ocean, one of my β€œmust haves” when looking for a rental is an outdoor shower. I’ll definitely put forest bathing on my bucket list now! Thank you!

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    1. Oh a little place by the sea with everything you need to enjoy life outdoors sounds like bliss! Forest bathing is definitely worth a try, thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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