Author - Christelle Baxter
Forest bathing, also referred to as “Shinrin-yoku”, is a Japanese founded, natural healing method. It was developed in the early 1980s and introduced as a government health plan.
This practise means “immersing one’s self in the forest and soaking in the atmosphere through our senses” says Dr Qing Li, president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine.
Li has gone onto publish both audio and hard copy books, to inspire and inform us on the health benefits of trees and the method to Forest Bathing.
The method, to put it more directly, is to enter a forest with the intention to connect with the environment, for as long as you can. Be calm and quiet amongst the trees, breathe deeply and observe the surrounding nature.
When I took to the internet to research this practise I unfolded so much information and so quickly. In minutes I had learnt what, where, when, how and why!How did I not know about this before? I questioned myself.
A whopping 384,000 posts were presented to me when I searched #forestbathing into Instagram. As well as YouTube users educating you on the method and sharing their own experiences. Names as big as Vogue, The Telegraph, National Geographic and The Guardian have leaped onto this trend to reveal their write up’s too.
One of my most fascinating discoveries so far has to be the benefits of Forest Bathing. I have only discovered positive results, so let me just reel off the most popular and talked about:
- Reduces stress
- Improves feelings of happiness
- Free’s up creativity
- Boosts the immune system
- Helps to speed up the recovery time from illnesses
- Lowers heart rate and blood pressure
Nature is known and proven to impact our brain and behaviour. So, just what is it about a forest?
A Forest is somewhere familiar, it feels safe and it’s beautiful. You may find yourself paying attention to shadows and colour, through the way trees play with light. You often hear birds tweeting, the bending and swaying of branches, leaves in a breeze and cracking twigs under your feet. Sounds that I think of as soothing.
What I love is looking up; recognising just how tall my surroundings have grown. The best part being when you can see a blue sky, or a piercing sun ray beaming through the gaps in between leaves, sometimes creating a pattern.
It’s truly spectacular how a woodland can activate all of your 5 senses. Nature really is alive!
Besides getting our senses going, trees protect us. They absorb toxic gases and air pollutants, therefore creating a much more improved air quality.
I’m fortunate to have grown up around greenery in a small and quaint town in Kent, the neighbouring county to Surrey (the UK’s most wooded county). It has always been normal in my household to go for a walk, usually on a Sunday, if not it’s an occasion to refresh or unwind.
As well as walking, my parents have always been one’s to admire a garden or park so I’ve definitely grown up to appreciate my outdoor surroundings, growing to be very curious and explorative.
Although, generally speaking, I think us Brit’s all have a love for outdoors in us and we are aware of the importance and freedom fresh air offers us, even in between the hustle and bustle of many busy lives today.
All you need to do is watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix to see exactly how detached from nature the world is today. Although, we are lucky to have the likes of David Attenborough on our tv screens to inspire us and teach us right from wrong when it comes to our planet Earth.
With regards to the UK and forest bathing, it isn’t the norm yet. However, it most definitely is spoken about and I would like to say we are on the way to it becoming a break through.
The Woodland Trust Charity refer to this as an important consideration for the NHS to be prescribing to patients, in order to help their wellbeing. Which links to the growth of “socially prescribing” nature related activities to patients.
Next, we have the Duchess of Cambridge who designed a ‘Back to Nature’ garden at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. Her vision being to highlight the mental and physical benefits the natural world can bring us. Thus being inspired by forest bathing.
With “staycations” on the rise as an outcome of lockdown, there is no better moment to live in the now, take a step back from negative news and to practise Forest Bathing yourself (which now you will understand is nothing to do with getting wet!). Whether that be a local woodland walk or a day out to some of the UK’s best forests, such as:
- The New Forest, Hampshire
- Epping Forest, Essex
- Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
- Delamere Forest, Cheshire
- Puzzlewood, Gloucestershire
Perhaps you are more adventurous and will take a leaf out of Eileen's (Founder of Wild Planet Aromatherapy) book, spending a couple of nights in a tree house. Surely you can’t get more in touch with nature than that.
If you aren't able to explore your local forest, woodland areas or have a stint in a tree house, you can still connect with nature with our new Forest Bathing candle and wax melt collection where you can immerse yourself in the scent of the forest with Juniper Needle, Cedarwood, Eucalyptus and notes of Black Spruce and Siberian Fir.