FOREST BATHING Nature’s Influence on

Our Mental and Physical Well-Being

Over the last few years, our society has experienced unexpected circumstances that have significantly impacted our mental and physical well-being. From global health epidemics, natural catastrophes, financial strains, and political discourse, our daily stressors have become immeasurable and, at times, difficult to manage.

The Mayo Clinic states, “Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that irritating headache, your frequent insomnia, or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the cause.”

While many rely on medication to combat the effects of prolonged stress, a more healthful and valuable practice is gaining popularity – forest bathing. This practice is designed for living in the present moment while “bathing” in the wonders of the outdoors, allowing nature’s harmony to penetrate one’s soul.

Created by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982 to combat employee burnout, the term shinrin‑yoku, which translates to “forest bathing,” encourages people to spend more time in nature while motivating them to protect and preserve the world’s forests.

Forest bathing is professionally described as nature therapy or ecotherapy (though some refer to it as green therapy). Regardless of the naming convention, such therapies traditionally involve engaging in low-impact physical activity (such as walking) in a natural outdoor setting.

How does forest bathing improve one’s well-being?

According to, our autonomic nervous system – a network of nerves controlling our unconscious processes, such as breathing and heart rate – has two parts, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.

The sympathetic division is about a fightor- flight response (stress; anxiety), while the parasympathetic division is about a rest-anddigest response (relaxation). Studies have found that forest bathing and other green therapies help reduce cortisol levels in the body – the stress hormone – and return one’s physical and mental well-being to a parasympathetic state.

How to Effectively Practice Forest Bathing

Step 1 – Turn Off All Distractions ➤ Forest bathing is about mindfulness – being in the present. This requires minimizing all distractions so you can fully immerse yourself in a natural environment. Therefore, it’s vital that you turn off your electronic devices (not just silence them) and do not listen to music or other kinds of programming during the practice.

Step 2 – Determine a Destination ➤ While the word “forest” is part of the title, a park, garden, or nature trail will suffice. The terrain should be flat with gentle walking paths, and the climate should be mild (when possible). The air should be fresh, the atmosphere quiet, and the landscape filled with abundant beauty. Destinations vary from person to person, so discover what works best for you.

Step 3 – Engage Your Senses ➤ Once you’ve arrived at your destination, find a quiet, unoccupied spot. Remain still and take a few deep breaths to help ground and center yourself in this new environment. Allow your senses to engage with your surroundings – the smell of the earth; the sounds of birds singing; the sights of rich greenery encircling you; the feel of tree bark against the palm of your hand. Your senses will help you spiritually connect with this new destination.

Step 4 – Start Walking ➤ Forest bathing is not a race but a low-impact mental activity. Walking should be done at a slow and meditative pace – often stopping to take notice of the natural environment around you while continuing to engage your senses. Do not rush through this step.

How Long Should You Practice? ➤ Many agree that practicing forest bathing for at least 20 minutes daily is ideal. However, even shorter amounts of time can be beneficial. Forest bathing should not feel like a chore and, therefore, must become essential to your daily routine.

Other Things to Consider ➤ Pay attention to your surroundings and stay on marked trails or paths for safety. Proper gear (such as running shoes and loose-fitting clothing) will help avoid any uncomfortableness which could impact your experience. In addition, wear a hat and sunscreen, depending on the conditions, and bring a water bottle to stay hydrated. It’s also a good idea to let others know where you are in case of emergencies.

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