Forest Bathing

When I first hear the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, which is forest bathing in English, I pictured a outdoor onsen that was in the middle of a forest, or maybe a deep soaking tub which was part of an outdoor bathroom attached to a hide-away cabin in the woods.

I was wrong. I failed to read the definition or any articles about the practice. If I would have done this I would learn that forest bathing isn’t about taking a water bath when in the forest, rather it’s being bathed in the atmosphere of the forest. To be surrounded by trees and nature.  The practice is lingering in nature while paying attention to your surroundings.

I now know that I have been practicing forest bathing for years. At least weekly, more frequently when I was feeling stressed, I would take a couple of hours, sometimes more, to get away from from hectic, technology driven life to walk among the trees.

On these walks I notices within a few minutes my whole posture relaxes.  I find myself breathing a bit deeper, walking a bit slower. It seems like a weight has been taken off my shoulders. I strongly recommend the practice to everyone. There have been numerous studies about how getting outdoors is good for health.

Until recently I believed that I needed to get somewhere that felt like wilderness to experience the benefits of forest bathing. I thought that the minimum effective dose was a trail that was several miles long, with no city noise, and no building being visible. In the last few months Jackie and I have walked several places that didn’t have these characteristics, but seemed to have a similar effect.

I found that building that blended into the scenery didn’t interfere with the rejuvenating sense the forest bath. I also discovered than I didn’t need to have a long trail, or even feel completely away from the city.  Hearing cars (so long as alarms aren’t blaring) was fine, so long as they weren’t in my line of sight.  Examples of places that provided a wonderful experience included walking in Portland’s Japanese garden and around Fresh Pond (reservoir) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I also discovered that the effect for me is accelerated when I am under a canopy of trees.

Do you find your soul and spirit rejuvenated when you walk among trees, in nature? Have you made it a regular practice?

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4 ESV

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