Wellbeing

Forest bathing - Lorna Salmon

Lorna Salmon takes us on a journey of mindfulness and mental health, through the art of forest bathing.

Have you ever heard of ‘forest bathing’?

I hadn’t until very recently, and as it turns out, I’d been doing it already without realising – and I’d wager you have, too.

The Japanese art of shinrin-yoku doesn’t involve swimming, and it doesn’t involve kicking off your flip-flops and setting a towel down on the forest floor.

No – instead, forest bathing is an act that’s closely linked to mindfulness and meditation. It encourages you to be in the moment, and to reconnect with natural surroundings on a deeper level.

Championed by Japan, forest bathing can have a huge beneficial impact on your stress levels. A government study demonstrated how a two-hour forest-bathing session could reduce blood pressure, improve concentration and even boost your immune system.

Top tips

  1. Switch off. Use your woodland walk as a digital detox. Put your phone on silent – even better, turn it off all together. This will help you be present.
  2. Don’t meticulously plan your route. Allowing for some spontaneity on your walk will undoubtedly make the whole experience feel more open and free.
  3. Don’t rush. Forest bathing isn’t about completing a set trail – it really can be as long or short as you’d like it to be. If you find a particularly lovely view or cosy spot, then stop all together and settle where you are for a while.
  4. Stop. On your walk, find a time to completely stop and shut your eyes. This will allow you to focus your other senses – can you smell pinewood; can you hear the wind rushing through the trees? You could even use this as an opportunity to take your shoes off and feel the forest floor with your feet. (*make sure you bring a spare pair of socks…)
  5. Take note. What can you smell, what can you hear, how do you feel? During the moments you’ve stopped, take stock of these things so you can reflect on them later.
  6. Bring tea. A comforting drink for many of us, I’d recommend bringing a flask with you – particularly during colder months.
  7. … And breathe. The best thing about forest bathing for me is the realisation that the world won’t just fall apart because you’ve stopped. Make the most of this moment of peace – it’s all yours.

Coping and hoping

All that’s left to say is I can’t recommend forest-bathing enough.

As a long time sufferer of anxiety and depression, I’m by no means saying this is a cure – but what I can say is that reconnecting with nature and my surroundings has proven to be an incredibly powerful and supportive coping mechanism for me during difficult times.

I hope it helps you as much as it’s helped me.

 

If you've been affected by the topics discussed in this article and want to learn more, contact the mental health charity Mind, for help and advice.