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Have You Tried Forest Bathing?

April 8, 2024

Smiling woman standing in a forest

Forest bathing originated in Japan as a meditative practice called shinrin-yoku, which involves immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. Far more than a simple walk in the woods, forest bathing is a mindful experience that engages all your senses and promotes relaxation and stress reduction.

“Studies show that spending time in nature is quite restorative,” says Peter Bolo, MD, a psychiatrist with Atlantic Health System. “By slowing down and connecting with the rhythms of the forest, you can experience profound peace and tranquility that contributes to your overall wellness. It helps lower blood pressure, cortisol (stress) levels, and reduces feelings of depression, anxiety and isolation.”

Becoming Mindful and Meditative

According to Dr. Bolo, when you take time to wander through a forest or wooded area, you’ll begin to leave behind the distractions of modern life. Initially, it can take a little work to be fully present in the natural world. But, in time, you’ll start to key in on sunlight filtering through the trees, songs of birds overhead, water washing over rocks or the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze.

“Hug a tree and run your hand over the bark,” says Dr. Bolo. “Pick up a handful of rocks, leaves or soil. Look up at the sunlight or clouds and notice the shadows or streams of light. Look down at your feet and take in the colors, textures and wonderful sensory things surrounding you. Sunlight, for example, is super restorative to our mood and helps with seasonal depression, particularly during the darker winter months.”

How to Bathe in the Forest

Dr. Bolo says there’s no better place than a forest to experience meditation and mindfulness. However, he explains that forest bathing is more than a hike in the woods. It requires you to pause, become present and bathe your senses in the wonders of the forest.

Start by focusing on your breathing. As you settle in, nature will begin to have a noticeable restorative effect on your mind, body and creative spirit. Give yourself about 15 or 20 minutes in nature each day. If a forest isn’t your thing, walk in a meadow, along the beach or on a mountaintop. Or, find a grassy spot wherever you can sit intentionally within nature and be mindful.

“It is important to disconnect from our fast-paced world and tap into the energy of the earth, sky and natural environment from where we evolved,” says Dr. Bolo. “Embracing nature gives a fresh perspective on life and cultivates a sense of wonder and awe for the intricate ecosystems that support all life on earth.”

  • Mental Wellness
  • Healthy Living