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Forest Bathing: Practice Mindfulness with a Walk in the Woods

Before You Even Ask, No, You Don’t Need to Bring a Towel

 

Forest bathing is a way to meditate in the peace and solitude of nature.

We could all use an extra dose of relaxation during these stressful times, and forest bathing might just do the trick. Hold up—we’re not going for a swim or anything. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese mindfulness practice that began in the 1980s. It might sound a little exotic, but it’s simply a way to slow down and immerse yourself in nature. Think of it like a cross between meditation and a nature walk.

Forest bathing has gained traction in the States in recent years, but during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more relevant than ever. The mindfulness techniques can help ease stress and anxiety, while the time outdoors is a safe, socially distant way to shake off cabin fever.

 

So How Do I Do It?

 

 

There’s really no “wrong” way.

Many people discover forest bathing at guided events, but until restrictions are lifted, you can try it out on your own. First, you’ll need to choose a location. Pick somewhere that you feel comfortable and relaxed. No need to head deep into the wilderness. You can connect with nature almost anywhere, even in the city.

“Urban parks and nature trails, arboretums and community gardens, creating a personal outdoor oasis on a front porch or balcony are all great spots,” said Josh Heath, a naturalist who leads forest bathing sessions at The Lodge at Woodloch.

Put your phone on silent and stash it away so you’re not distracted (that includes snapping photos). Then take a slow, mindful walk. Don’t push yourself like you would on a hike or a workout. Just take your time and contemplate.

“There is a technique known as the Fox Walk, and it is essentially heel, big toe, roll to the little toe, step to opposite heel, big toe, roll to the little toe, repeating this process over and over,” said Heath. “I like taking baby steps too, pausing every once in a while to look around.”

Take deep, measured breaths as you go. You might want to bring a blanket so you can stop, take a seat and simply relax.

 

Unplug from the News and Tune in to Nature

 

Seven Tubs Nature Area - Parks - Hiking - DiscoverNEPA

 

Focus on your surroundings to keep your thoughts from whirling.

Take time to appreciate the world around you and notice the things you would normally overlook. If distractions or worries keep nagging at you, try grounding yourself by using all five senses.

  • Sight: Look around as if you’re seeing the world for the first time. Let yourself feel child-like awe over the simple things, like the way the ferns twirl in the breeze or the dapples of sunlight filtering through the leafy canopy.
  • Sound: Listen to the chirping birds, the rush of wind or the trickle of water. Try to really stretch your listening skills and search for the sounds deeper in the forest. Closing your eyes can help you focus.
  • Smell: Inhale the smell of the forest, like the damp moss, the green leaves and the cool water.
  • Touch: Gently feel the bark of the trees or the smooth leaves. You can even slip off your shoes and feel the grass tickle your bare feet.
  • Taste: No need to get too creative! Simply inhale through your mouth and “taste” the forest air.

These techniques can help you get out of your head and take your thoughts off of daily life. Some people like to record their experiences through nature journaling so they can go back and reflect whenever they’re feeling stressed.

 

Mother Nature Is an Amazing Therapist

 

 

Spending time outdoors is a great form of self-care.

Forest bathing doesn’t have to be a one-time activity. Many people turn it into a practice, like meditation or yoga. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to slip into a relaxed state of mind.

Here in NEPA, we’re fortunate to have plenty of parks and trails right in our own backyards. Find one near you and plan your own escape.

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