What Is Forest Bathing

Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is a practice that involves surrounding yourself in nature, especially forests, to improve physical and mental health. It originated in Japan in the 1980s and has since gained popularity worldwide. 

The practice involves slowing down, using your senses to connect with nature, and mindfully walking through a forest or other natural environment. 

The aim is to reduce stress, improve mood, boost immune system function, and promote overall well-being. 

Forest bathing has been shown to have numerous health benefits, making it a popular practice for those looking to improve their health and well-being. 

 A study in Germany has been looking into the impact phytoncides has on the nervous system. It found 

'results demonstrate that exposure to nature for one hour decreases amygdala activity and can have salutogenic effects on brain regions related to stress. This suggests that going for a walk in nature may buffer detrimental effects of urban environment on stress-related brain regions, and in turn potentially act as a preventive measure against developing a mental disorder.'

Sudimac, S., Sale, V. & Kühn, S. How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature. Mol Psychiatry 27, 4446–4452 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-022-01720-6 

The Aromatheapy benefits of forest bathing

Forest Bathing allows you enjoy the benefits of the natural aromatherapy of forest air. Trees release natural essential oils called Phytoncides. 

Phytoncides are volatile organic substances ('essential oils') given off by trees. these chemicals are designed to provide the tree from disease, bugs and bacteria.

Studies have shown that during forest bathing trips, exposure to phytoncides decreased stress levels in the body, help the bodies immune response and help lift mood, lower anxiety and decrease mental fatigue.

(Li Q. Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environ Health Prev Med. 2010 Jan;15(1):9-17. doi: 10.1007/s12199-008-0068-3. PMID: 19568839; PMCID: PMC2793341. Antonelli M, Donelli D, Barbieri G, Valussi M, Maggini V, Firenzuoli F. Forest Volatile Organic Compounds and Their Effects on Human Health: A State-of-the-Art Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 7;17(18):6506. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17186506. PMID: 32906736; PMCID: PMC7559006. )

Forest Bathing For The Senses

Forest Bathing is a multi sensory experience. We have already explored the benefits of smell while in the forest but how can you use your other senses?

  • Sight:  A great way to ground yourself or get the kids involved is to notice what you can see. The colours of the sky, the different shades of the trees, the shapes made from the forest paths or the leaves. Maybe you could get the kids to draw the shapes they see or create a nature scrapbook from things they find. 

  • Touch: An amazing grounding technique (if it is safe to do so) is to take off your shoes and walk barefoot. Let you feet feel the ground and really centre you. Talk to the kids about how the trees feel, are they rough or smooth, what to the leaves feel like etc.

  • Sound: Listen to the sounds of the forest, enjoy the silence (if you are child free that day!). Get the kids to try and make a song with the sounds they can hear. A great tip I do, is to record the sounds. You can then create your own 'nature' soundtrack to listen to when at home and needing some time out.

Forest Bathing For Mental Health

To really improve your mental wellbeing, the mental strain needs to be lifted. As mums we are overloaded by sound, touch and forever growing To Do lists. We never really have the oppertunity to mentally rest and just be. Forest Bathing allows you the space to feel open without the confinement of the walls of the house or kids climbing over you. The sensory calmness of the silence of nature and the time to just be you.

All of these things give your mind the time to switch of truly rest.

How To Start Forest Bathing

Yoga Pose In The Forest

Now we know the benefits of Forest Bathing, how do you actually do it. Really it is up to you, what does your body and mind need?

If you need movement, you could simply walk through the forest. It doesn't need to be a hike, just a slow paced walk. Give yourself the time to feel the ground beneath you, take some deep breathes to inhale the benefits of the Phytoncides.

You could even enjoy some of your favourite yoga poses to get yourself moving.

If the mental load is getting to much, why not take your journal with you. Find a quiet space to fill in your guided pages or let your thoughts free with a free writing journal.

Journals For Forest Bathing

If you need stillness, then find a Sit Spot. A Sit Spot is a place chosen by you that you feel comfortable in. somewhere you can return to with every visit. Choose a place that is quiet and just observe your surrounding. 

Get comfy! Take a blanket with you to sit on, or sit on the ground and let it fill your senses. Whatever you need to feel comfy and relax.

Once you are there you could do some breathing exercises, journal, get creative with drawing & writing or simply just be in the moment.

To conclude, Forest Bathing is about being mindfully and meaningfully in nature. It doesn't have to be a forest, it could be your garden or the local park.

Forest Bathing is an easy and free way to get some much needed mental rest from motherhood and recharge yourself fully.

Why not take a look and see if you can find someone local who does Forest Bathing sessions.