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Forest Bathing Is The Easiest And Most Affordable Way To Clear Your Mind

It doesn’t matter how fit – or unfit – you are. Shinrin-yoku is suitable for any level of slothery.

2020 is, without doubt, the year of natural appreciation. 

"Well, we can't do anything else," we hear you cry. 

And while we agree, we've also figured that it's surely the best time there's ever been to embrace the practice of forest-bathing wholeheartedly. 

The ancient practice sees you visit Mother Nature and her verdant green spaces with the aim to soothe your mind.

It involves walking slowly and pensively through woodland to ‘bathe’ in its peace and beauty; you only have to consider lockdown and the amount of other human beings frequenting the park (and, even, garden centres) to know that green space is essential to our sense of wellbeing.

The practice hails from Japan, where forest bathing – or shinrin-yoku – is a legitimate means of relaxation. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere or taking in the forest through our senses.

This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge.

By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.

The process requires body, soul and mind participation – meaning that phones and cameras stay home. 

Then one must walk aimlessly and slowly and let your senses be your guide. And take your time, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are just savouring it all, one step at a time. 

While the practice from Japan – where it has been enthusiastically practised since the 1980s after it was prescribed by the government for stressed Japanese workers – 'forest bathing' is now being touted as one of a number of therapies that can help boost our national ailing mental health. 

As well as lowering blood sugar levels, boosting our immune system and helping to improve energy and cardiovascular health, forest bathing is said to be excellent at lowering stress, lifting depression and reducing our blood pressure; put simply, it is excellent for our health. 

When it comes to finding calm and relaxation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – it differs from person to person. It is important to find a place that suits you.

However, anywhere with trees seems to be a good place to start, given that recent studies (such as this one) found that short-term effects of “green exercise” help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety somewhat impressively. 

The reason why spending time in nature is so good for our health is thanks to the biophilia hypothesis: human beings evolved to live in nature and now have an innate biological need to connect with it.

And with statistics suggesting that 92.2 per cent of us will be living in cities by 2030, it makes sense to understand and harness the power of nature to improve our mental states. 

Contrary to its misleading name, you can forest-bathe anywhere in the world – wherever there are trees; no forest necessary. Even the most built-up cities in the world boast some greenery – now all you need to do, is meander around in it. 

Main image by @jilla.tequila

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