By Francesca Londoño-Richards
Whether you’re feeling stressed, anxious or simply overwhelmed, we share how to find your inner peace and boost your immune system through the practice of Forest Bathing. (No swimsuit required!)
On hearing the words, ‘Forest Bathing’ for the first time, it’s possible you might conjure up images of people hugging trees (or floating around in water with trees) and feel it’s rather too ‘hippie’ for your liking. You’re a bride, not a forest dweller after all. But what if we told you, that firstly it’s not hippie, it’s very hip and secondly, it’s really, really good for you? You might be surprised to hear that the practice of Forest Bathing has been proven to greatly benefit our physical and emotional wellbeing. So if you’re struggling with your wedding planning or generally finding things tough, it’s time to get back to nature!
But what exactly is Forest Bathing?
Some people may call it mindfulness and others therapy, it’s really a bit of both. The practice emerged in Japan where the phrase ‘shinrin-yoku’ originates. It literally translates as ‘forest bathe’ although (thankfully for some) it doesn’t involve water. It is the act of escaping from the hustle and bustle of daily life, away from screens and devices to immerse yourself in nature. This form of ecotherapy really encourages you to focus on your senses, to savour the sounds, sights and smells.
During the 1980’s researchers in Japan proved that spending time in nature was so beneficial it could reduce blood pressure, cortisol levels and improve concentration, creativity and memory. But what is it in nature that makes us feel so good? Incredibly, it’s the trees and plants. They found that trees and plants release antimicrobial essential oils called phytoncides which help protect them from germs and parasites. These oils have a whole host of benefits for us; they help boost our immune system and reduce anxiety and stress. There is even some evidence to suggest they can fight cancer and depression. This compelling evidence led the Japanese government to introduce ‘shinrin-yoku’ as part of their national health programme.
Forest Bathing has finally been gaining popularity here in the UK, even the Duchess of Cambridge is claimed to be a fan! Her debut garden at the Chelsea Flower Show back in 2019, RHS Back to Nature was believed to be inspired by Forest Bathing. Awareness is also rising thanks to The Forest Bathing Institute whose patron is none other than Dame Judi Dench. They aim to replicate and further the studies on Forest Bathing made in Japan with an exciting long-term goal of seeing it prescribed on the NHS as a clinical therapy. And now with the pandemic, it’s continued to gain traction; we’ve instinctively craved more space and time outdoors, we’re appreciating nature and understanding its therapeutic benefits more than ever.
So how do you do it?
Find a quiet place, whether it’s your local park, woods or nearest National Trust place, somewhere you can truly relax. Ideally you should allow around 2 hours for the maximum benefit but even 10 minutes can be mood enhancing.
Turn off your devices and don’t be tempted to take photos for Instagram!
Take your time and walk slowly. Connect to your senses; touch the trees, look up at the sky, examine the forest floor, smell the flowers and listen to the birdsong. Notice the changes around you, the brightness shifting, the wind rustling in the trees.
Breathe slowly and fully with awareness. Long deep breaths focusing on a longer exhalation sends signals to the brain to relax.
And most importantly, enjoy it!
If you really love it, you can find a local group with a guide to further your experience.
Visit The Forest Bathing Institute for more information https://tfb.institute/
Photos by Sarah Kingshott @dorsetandsunsets