Forest Bathing in the South Downs
If you thought the only way to bath was with water, think again.
Have you ever wandered along a wooded path, listening to the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet, soaking up the smells of the trees around you.
Maybe noticing the squirrels jumping from branch to branch, spotting a butterfly fluttering in the dappled light streaming through the leafy canopy above or hearing the distant hammering of a woodpecker. If so then without realising it you’ve dipped your toe in a forest bath. Or better put, experienced some forest bathing.
Known in Japan as shinrin yoku, forest bathing is the simple method of being amongst trees while observing the natural world around you. And the benefits of this simple activity are numerous.
Proven to reduce stress hormones in adults and children alike, forest bathing has been found to lower blood pressure and depression while increasing energy levels. Research has also discovered that trees omit oils to fight germs and insects and these oils, called phytoncides, help boost our immune system.
Don’t let the name put you off, you don’t even really need a forest to have a go at this free and easy ecotherapy. Here’s how you do it:
- Pick a location and time which is quiet so there are few people around. A wooded area is preferable to make the most of the trees, however any green space will have similar benefits.
- Turn off all your devices – phone, ipad, even reminders on your watch, anything that will distract you from the here and now.
- Wander slowly through the trees. Or if you prefer take a seat to find some stillness – sitting can help with spotting wildlife like insects and birds.
- Use all of your senses – touch the grass, notice how the light falls around you, what smells can you pick out, or what birdsong can you hear. You might even be able to taste the moisture in the air.
- Bring your attention to your breath. This will help clear your mind of everyday thoughts so you can focus on the now. It can help to close your eyes and take ten slow, deep breaths in and out. Once you feel calm open your eyes and focus your awareness back to your surroundings.
- The recommended time to get the most out of forest bathing is two hours, but even ten minutes soaking up nature can help revive you. Stay as long as you feel comfortable.
This video has some great tips on how it’s done. And if you aren’t currently able to get outside right now or to some woods, Forestry England brings the trees to you in this calming video.