Imagine sinking down into a deep, bubble filled bath nestled under the canopies of a tropical rainforest, the sound of nature all around you, the fresh forest air blowing across your face, the relaxing swish of the leaves as the wind blows through the trees, and your very own butler to bring you a glass of Prosecco at the click of your fingers.
Sounds like the dream right?
Well sorry to burst your bubble bath and all that, but that’s not what forest bathing’s about at all!
Originating in Japan (well aren’t all good wellness trends these days?) forest bathing, or rather shinrin-yoku as the Japanese call it, is about taking in the forest atmosphere and allowing it’s relaxing ambience to bathe our senses. And we all know just how good being outside and connecting with nature is. All those endorphins, a blast of Vitamin D, and on top of that trees release chemicals called phytoncides, which have an anti-microbial effect on the human body and can therefore help boost the immune system.
According to a recent study in which parents from 10 countries were asked how much time their 5 – 12 year old children spent outside, it was revealed that British kids were among the most housebound in the world. As a parent with two kids in this age bracket I know just how difficult it is to prise them away from a screen. And when I compare the amount of time they spend outside against how much time I spent outside when I was young, I can well believe how the study showed that kids today spend twice as long on a screen than they do playing outside.
But the thing is it’s not just our kids who are being sucked into this digital dungeon, no us adults are getting worse too. Longer work hours, taking work home, checking our phones first thing in the morning and last thing at night, we’ve taken the term multi media in it’s most literal sense and it’s time we switched off and reconnected with nature!
There is zero question that being outside makes us feel good. Whether we’re exercising, walking to work, taking the dog for a walk, or even sitting in the park or garden, the simple act of being outside in the fresh air is enough to elevate our moods and make us truly focus on our five senses. And that’s essentially what forest bathing is; it’s about taking the time to really pay attention to the natural environment around you. To listen to the birds singing, the leaves rustling, the twigs snapping underfoot. To smell the rich, earthy tones of the forest floor and the different smells of the trees as they change through the seasons. To see the sunlight shine through the branches, notice the different shades of greens and pay attention to the small, usually unnoticed features hidden in the landscape. To feel the air as it blows through your hair and to touch the contrasting textures of soft, velvety moss against the rough bark of the trees. To taste the air, allowing yourself to gulp in glorious lungfuls of that fresh, forest air.
And to just be.
In the moment.
And of course where there’s a trend there’s a business just waiting to take your cash. From self help style books to forest bathing holidays (yep even Center Parcs are in on the act) the healing power of trees is EVERYWHERE! Indeed even the Forestry Commission is planning on launching a nationwide forest bathing programme next year and of course all the big cities want in on this trend too regardless of whether of not they have access to a forest, with a whole heap of pop-up events cropping up in whatever green space they can lay their hands on.
We’re not all fortunate enough to live with a forest on our doorsteps, I get that, but forest bathing is really only an extension of mindfulness. So it’s more about finding your happy place and making the effort to spend quality time within it, away from technology (don’t even think about taking your phone, not matter how tempted you are to Instagram it!), away from distractions (perhaps you’re best off leaving the kids at home!) and with no time limits or restrictions (hey, if I were you I wouldn’t even wear your Fitbit!).
I’m sure many of us would argue that we don’t have enough time to fit in anything as remotely self indulgent as forest bathing, but like all wellness practices it’s about time for ourselves. And trend or no trend, if forest bathing gives you that time for reflection, time for yourself and some time away from the modern world, then hey I am all for it!
What do you think of Forest Bathing?
Would you give it a go, or is it just another faddy trend that will be here today, gone tomorrow?
I’d love to know what you think!
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