About Forest Bathing
“The art of forest bathing is the art of connecting with nature through our senses.”
– Dr. Qing Li
Forest bathing is a regular wellness practice that involves gently slowing down our bodies and minds while using our senses to connect with the natural world.
The term “forest bathing” is a direct translation of the Japanese phrase shinrin-yoku. The practice originated in Japan in the 1980s, when the government there sponsored various research studies looking into improving health outcomes for the increasing diseases and chronic conditions that arose in the midst of a major economic and technological boom.
In the 2010s, the ANFT (Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs) began to pick up steam in the United States, with the aim of bringing a relational model of forest therapy to a wider audience. Today, this organization’s focus is on healing humans’ relationships with the natural world through providing comprehensive Nature and Forest Therapy Guide training. Your guide, Fru Molnar, is a graduate of the Nature and Forest Therapy Guide Certification program through ANFT, and practices their heart-centered, research-backed framework for guided forest therapy walks.
Guided forest bathing experiences are designed to be enjoyed in groups of about 3-15 people. Decades of research have informed the frameworks of these practices and demonstrated a wide array of benefits, from the physical and mental, to the relational, social, and even spiritual.
THE SCIENCE-BACKED BENEFITS
Let’s start with the evidence-based human health benefits. Various forms of forest bathing have been studied and shown to:
- Catalyze the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (aka rest-and-digest mode) and the deactivation of the sympathetic nervous system (aka fight-or-flight mode)
- Lower cortisol, the stress hormone
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower pulse rate
- Lower adrenaline levels
- Boost the immune system (increased production of natural killer cells)
- Enhance mental clarity and access to creativity
- Relieve chronic pain and depression
- Improve mood
- Improve cognition
- Increase sense of vitality
In addition to the benefits above, forest bathing can have far-reaching benefits for our relationships with our environments as a whole, and for our sense of compassion for the beings with whom we share this planet. By connecting with nature in a regular, mindful way, we increase our sense of belonging and our love for the more-than-human world and each other.
As with all wellness routines, benefits are maximized with regular practice.
“It’s not just the smell of a cypress, or the sound of the birds, or the color green that unlocks the pathway to health in our brains. We’re full sensory beings, or at least we were once built to be. Isn’t it possible that it’s only when you open all the doors—literally and figuratively—that the real magic happens? For that, you need more than a few moments on a screen or in nature. You need, to be exact, five hours a month.”
– Florence Williams, The Nature Fix