With the rapid development of modern technology increasing the pace of life for the everyday person, it might seem like the act of stopping and smelling the roses is an even bigger task than what it used to be. Nature is no longer an integral part of our skyscraper-filled lives, which are inundated with overwhelming responsibilities and tasks that we’re contractually bound to. Though it may seem counterproductive, taking the time out to slow down and surround ourselves with nature can actually bring forth major healing benefits.
Stemming from the Japanese culture of ‘Shinrin-yoku’, shinrin directly translates from Japanese to forest, and yoku means bath, ‘forest bathing’ is the next therapeutic activity you should be adding to your self-care routine. The art of forest bathing is a form of forest therapy where participants simply to take in nature with all their senses and be fully present in the moment to reap the benefits of Mother Nature.
How does forest bathing work?
By taking out dedicated time to immerse oneself in nature, we’re able to breathe in fresher air containing an abundant mixture of negative ions, beneficial microorganisms and phytoncides. The air in forest and nature-rich environments are highly rich in phytoncides released by surrounding plants and trees, and research has shown that phytoncides have a variety of benefits, ranging from boosting the immune system through increasing white blood cell activity, as well as regulating the body’s stress responses system by reducing cortisol levels.
From excessive screen-times due to mindless scrolling and work tasks, even down to the hectic city noises that pollute our sense of calm, sensory overstimulation is simply a part of daily life. Forest bathing can be a great way to focus and reconnect with our senses at a base level, untainted by modern technology whilst enjoying a relaxing trail that eases the mind.
“Beyond just taking from nature to benefit our health, we can go deeper through relational forest therapy. There are many less quantifiable and no less important factors involved in forest bathing, such as awe, connectedness and relations with other living things and the sense of aliveness,” explains You Min Yap, the Director of Xiu Nature Connections. “This is a process where both self-care and caring for the Earth exists in tandem.”
“What truly sets forest bathing apart from a simple hike or nature walk is that the connection to our senses is the main focus. We don’t chase the steps and speed, and we don’t focus on the head knowledge,” shares Yap.
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What are the benefits of forest bathing?
As forest bathing is a practice focused on one’s relationship with nature, the benefits range depending from person to person. The most commonly reported benefits of forest bathing tend to be a sense of relaxation and deeper connection to self, as well as reduced stress and improved sleep. Engaging in a long term practice of forest bathing may even help to reduce blood pressure and harmful hormones like cortisol, which overall contributes to a better mind-body state.
“I think more of us are looking for moments of simplicity and quietude in our otherwise busy and complex world. A forest bathing in nature provides that ‘something more’—a dose of uncomplicated, unrushed, unjudged moment in which we can be in our own skin as with the rest of nature,” says Yap.
What can you expect to experience during a forest bathing session?
Every person’s forest bathing experience will be unique, depending on the type of forest bathing session they opt for. The essence of forest bathing lies in taking things slow, and at a gentle pace to allow for different sensory experiences that nature has to offer. There might be certain moments in time where you experience a deep sense of catharsis, or you might just bask in the joy of the simple moments in the forest.
“Some people experience deep joy, gratitude, ‘aha’ moments, and some will release grief and untended wounds–these sensations and feelings are all welcome and is therapeutic for the individual.” describes Yap. Looking inwards and allowing yourself to fully experience the range of emotions that come up may be one way you’d like to approach the session.
How should one prepare beforehand to get the most out of a forest bathing session?
It all starts with coming into the session with an open mind to what this experience may offer you. Get rid of any preconceived notions that you may have and step into nature with open arms, as you never know what nature may bring forth to you. Also, be sure to be dressed comfortably depending on the location of the session, you might want to do a bit of research beforehand to ensure you’re dressed appropriately. “If possible, try to keep your schedule spacious and free immediately after the forest therapy class, so that you don’t have to rush off at the end of the session,” Yap suggests.
What are the different types of forest bathing experiences available?
Sessions are usually conducted in either small groups or 1-on-1 with a certified forest therapy guide. Some forest bathing sessions may be centered around a certain theme, for example Yap offers public sessions that takes place across diverse nature settings in Singapore, in both nature and in the cityscape. Besides that, it’s also common to combine the forest bathing with other wellness practices such as yoga, meditation and tea ceremonies for a well rounded experience.
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