So what is Forest Bathing? Do you swim or wash in the forest?
No, simply put Forest Bathing involves immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the forest or woodland, engaging all of your senses in a mindful capacity to benefit your wellbeing.
The core principle of Forest Bathing is that you are present and in the moment and not distracted by technology, conversations or everyday stresses of daily life.
Forest Bathing isn’t simply a walk in the woods or nature either. Like the practice of mindfulness it entails slowing down and applying an acute focus on what’s around us through a series of sensory invitations.
These techniques can be learnt and applied by yourself, however a qualified Forest Bathing or Shinrin -Yoku Practitioner will take time to explain the scientific research and health benefits, and guide you through a series of gentle mindful invitations which focus on each of your senses, as you remain present and connect with nature without thinking about time or direction.
You may then activate your Parasympathetic Nervous system into a rest and relax state.
Where did Forest Bathing originate?
Shinrin-Yoku, directly translated to Forest Bathing, started in Japan in the 1980s due to spike in mental health issues coinciding with a mass migration of people into the cities from rural areas, driven by the mass technological boom of the 80s.
It sounds a bit like like the impact lockdown and our ever available technological world is having on us today doesn’t it? Which is contributing to high levels of burnout, anxiety and stress, causing a mental health epidemic in the wake of the Covid Pandemic.
Katrina, ADHD Nurse, HDHB
“I attended a forest bathing and gong bath session with Geraint recently whilst on a wellbeing retreat. It was my first time experiencing this and I didn’t know what to expect.
Geraint gave a really insightful and evidence-based talk on the benefits of being in nature and the impact that it can have on people’s health and wellbeing.
The forest bathing and gong bath session was really relaxing and helped me to unwind and just forget about time and really be in that moment. I felt calm, relaxed, refreshed and really surprised at the positive effect that it had on me.
I struggle to fully relax on a daily basis due to having ADHD which causes my mind to race a lot. Geraint’s forest bathing session allowed me to start to feel free from intrusive thoughts and distractions. My mind began to feel settled and my body really relaxed.
Geraint is really knowledgeable about what he does and is really calming, welcoming and passionate about helping others through natural means. I am really grateful for his support and shared knowledge. He has extensively researched the biological, psychological and social benefits of forest bathing and provides a safe, supportive, understanding and reflective environment for all.
I will definitely be returning again and would highly recommend him. You begin to take more notice of everything around you and begin to appreciate the connection between yourself, nature, and your wellbeing whilst receiving positive guidance and reflection with Geraint’s expertise.”
Research based health and wellbeing evidence
Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing is now ingrained into Japan’s healthcare system as a preventative first step to keeping people well.
1 in 4 people in Japan have experienced Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing, and 2.5 to 5 million people regularly practice it.
The swell of scientific data is very compelling, just some of the positive health benefits include a reduction in blood pressure, reduction in heart rate, reduction of stress and a boost to immunity.
There has been a fair bit of media coverage about Forest Bathing in the UK as it’s awareness increases it begins to gain popularity.
Some say it’s the new Yoga!
What are the benefits of Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate. It’s also been shown to reduce our levels of Cortisol, the stress inducing hormone, helping us feel relaxed.
Our Immunity gets a boost also, as our Natural Killer white blood cells go up in number as we inhale the protective natural compounds called ‘phytoncides’ that are let off by the trees and plants which are anti fungal and anti bacterial in nature for them.
This Research from Japan also suggests that consecutive days spent in the forest can further increase the number, and activity, of our natural Killer (NK) white blood cells by another 50%, which have been shown to fight cancers and infections. If that wasn’t impressive enough, spending consecutive days back to back means that these benefits can last for up to a month at a time!
Sounds like a good regular practice to start, doesn’t it!?
Reduced Heart rate & Blood Pressure
Boost Immune System
rebalance mood altering brain chemicals
What’s involved in Forest Bathing?
Following a welcome and introduction to Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku), touching on the origin and scientific health benefits you’ll set off on a contemplative amble through the forest or woodland.
From time to time you’ll stop and receive various mindfulness invitations from the guide which are designed to help you to connect with nature, tuning in with each of your senses, seeing, hearing and feeling the natural environment with an acute and childlike curiosity.
Some of these invitations involve sitting, standing, lying or walking. They are mostly done solo, though some can be done in pairs. How you approach each invitation is entirely your own your choice , with no pressure or expectations.
The ideal session would last for around 2-3 hours, covering 2-3 km at a slow and considered pace, stopping in different sections of the woodland or forest. Though varying duration and distance Forest Bathing sessions can be arranged.
What to bring?
- Sturdy footwear as terrain underfoot can vary as we explore the forest
- Long trousers to avoid nettle stings or scratchy branches
- Something to sit and or lie on may help you relax into the invitations and prevent a soggy bum
- Water and snacks
- Be prepared for the weather, sunscreen / waterproofs
- Curiosity and open mindset