“What is forest bathing?” is the most frequently asked question from people who are hearing about it for the first time. Despite the name, forest bathing does not involve swimming costumes or bathing.
Forest Bathing is a Japanese practice known as shinrin yoku. Translated Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” Simply, forest bathing is the
practice of slowing down and immersing yourself in the forest atmosphere.
Forest bathing was first developed in Japan in the 1980s, following scientific studies conducted by the government. At the time the Japanese government was keen to offer an antidote to burnout and to inspire citizens to reconnect with and protect the country’s forests.
The results of the research showed that two hours of mindful exploration in a forest could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and improve concentration and memory. They also found that trees release chemicals called phytoncides, which have an anti-microbial effect on human bodies, boosting the immune system. As a result of this research, the Japanese government introduced ‘shinrin-yoku’ as a national health programme.
Forest bathing is increasingly popular in the UK and Europe as people look for ways to unwind from the stresses of modern life. The beauty of forest bathing is how easy it is to practice. It can be as simple as a gentle wander in your local woods or park. The difference is that rather than walking for exercise, you take the time to really focus on the natural world around you: from the rain drops on leaves to the rustle of the trees in the wind.
Slowing down to notice nature improves a person’s connection with nature. It is nature connectedness and our relationship with the natural world that significantly increases wellbeing.
In 2018 academics at the University of Derby found that improving a person’s connection with nature led to significant increases in their wellbeing as well as encouraging pro-environmental behaviours. This ground-breaking research led to the development of the 5 pathways to nature connectedness. The pathways to nature connectedness provide a route for people to develop a new relationship with the natural world. This new relationship with nature can move beyond utility and control, beyond knowledge and identification. A new closer, healthier and more sustainable relationship with nature comes through noticing, feeling, beauty, celebration and care.
- Senses – tuning in to nature through the senses
- Emotion – feeling alive through the emotions and feelings nature brings
- Beauty – noticing nature’s beauty
- Meaning – nature bringing meaning to our lives
- Compassion – caring and taking action for nature
There are many ways to experience forest bathing, from a self-guided mindful walk in the local park to an organised forest bathing experience led by a certified forest bathing guide. Joining an experienced certified forest bathing guide will provide you with nature connection activities and sensory exercises that will enhance your connection to nature, resulting in a whole host of benefits.
We are proud that Nádúr’s forest bathing guides are trained to the highest standards with our intensive, evidence based programme. If you are interested in becoming a forest bathing guide then discover more by clicking here or get in touch here.
National Trust Forest Bathing for Beginners
Forestry England Your Guide to Forest Bathing
University of Derby Nature Connectedness Research Group