Shinrin-yoku – or forest bathing – has been gaining in popularity, and for good reason. This practice of bathing in the forest atmosphere, which started In Japan in the 1980s, teaches us how to take in the forest through our senses in a very mindful and slow way. It’s not about hiking, jogging or any other physical exercise, and it’s also not about going out with the intention of identifying the plants or trees you come across.
Forest bathing is about opening ourselves up and bridging the gap between ourselves and nature through our five senses. It is about getting out of our thoughts and into our bodies; turning off our sympathetic nervous system (the stress, or fight or flight, response) and turning on our parasympathetic nervous system (the calming, or rest and digest, response). When this gets turned on, it can evoke a sense of calm, decreased anxiety and an overall improved mood – things we all need more of right now as we navigate and cope with increased restrictions and orders to stay home. (One of my colleagues here at Tree Canada has recently completed her training in forest therapy and has learned about and experienced its many benefits.)
We are all living through new challenges due to the pandemic; challenges that have put pressure on us in ways we never thought possible. And while we all have our own way of dealing with these pressures, I encourage you to add “bathing in the forest” to your list of coping mechanisms – even the virtual kind can help! And, if you don’t have an actual forest nearby, trees or green in any environment can offer respite and peace, from the ones right outside your window to the ones in your living room.
As this new year continues to unfold, I encourage you to grow your love of trees while bathing in their benefits and all they have to offer.