One of the positive practices we heartily recommend is “Forest Bathing”. Visit the G4A List for many more ideas!
By Fredda Goldfarb
When we were curating and compiling the seminal “list of positive practices”, (which by the way, you can suggest additions to the List by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org) I was intrigued to learn about Forest Bathing.
Recently, I had the amazing experience of visiting California’s Redwood Forest. The sheer beauty of these trees, some hundreds of years old, was truly breathtaking. In fact, the oldest redwood near our location was found to be over 2200 years old! The word AWESOME doesn’t seem trite and overused in connection with these majestic conifers.
In Japanese culture, “shinrin-yoku” (shinrin meaning “forest” and yoku meaning “bath”) is widely practiced as a healing and meditative salve to our go-go lifestyle.
I figured it was the perfect thing to try in our turbulent times. So, I convinced my husband to try the practice with me, and we brought our 13-year-old Havanese, Eleanor, along for the “Forest Bath”.
Here are some tips for Beginners gleaned from various online sources:
- Disconnect from Devices: Give yourself a break from our overly stimulated world to be more mindful and truly absorb the experience. (Confession: I did keep my camera with me but only took photos after 20 minute “soaks” in the forest)
- Be silent: For the most part, absorb the experience with all of your senses. If you want your companion to notice something, gently get their attention and point. (Confession: I told my husband if either of us spotted a bear, we would be breaking this rule. In fact, screaming would be required. A ranger had assured us bear sightings were very rare where we were 😊 ).
- Go slow: This experience is different than a hike. The point is to go slowly, and truly soak in what is around you.
- Breathe Deeply: Older, larger trees produce lots of oxygen which, you may have heard, we humans require. Pull the forest air deep into your lungs and down into your abdomen. Try the meditative practice of extending the exhalation to twice the length of the inhalation to encourage the body to truly relax.
- Engage all 5 senses: What are you hearing, what are you seeing and smelling? Touch the various plants and the tree trunks (avoiding nettles and other pricklys!) Some articles have suggested the air in a forest even has a taste. Experience it all.
- Find a way to sit: Some forest trails have benches, or there are usually stumps or rocks. Take a few minutes to sit, and take it all in.
- Eyes open: Try to be acutely observant. What plants do you see? Any wildlife? Notice the endless flow of life that inhabits the forest. Also, notice the colors! One article I read noted that studies find that green and blue are particularly soothing to humans.
- Stay a while: Stay as long as you can. Working up to two hours is what many articles suggest.
We were amazed by the interconnectedness of this ancient forest. From the old growth massive trees to moss, and even decaying plant material on the ground, everything plays a role in the natural wonder that is a forest.
We learned that redwoods help create their own microclimate through the transpiration of moisture from the leaves to the atmosphere. A very large redwood can release up to 500 gallons of water into the air per day.
Even fallen trees play a role. The nutrients the forest requires are not only in the soil. As trees and plants die and decay, they are recycled into the living forest. With this highly efficient system, the forest feeds itself, wasting nothing. There can be over 4000 species living in or on a downed log.
My little family truly loved this experience. Even Eleanor, who is usually fidgety and eager to chase chipmunks, calmly observed the forest from her backpack and seemed very tranquil yet intrigued with her surroundings. Dare I say, it was almost (ok it was) a spiritual experience for all three of us.
We hope you try forest bathing with someone you care about. Thank you for reading. Go out and make it a Good4All day!