What Is Forest Bathing And What Are Its Benefits?

Taking time to slow down and be present in the moment can feel impossible with our attention drawn every direction seemingly at once, and stress can build up and overwhelm us. One way to combat stress and re-center is forest bathing. It's not taking a bath in the middle of the woods. Rather, it's using all of your senses to metaphorically soak in all that a forest has to offer (via ABC). An extended version, if you will, of stopping to smell the roses.

It's surely something that's been practiced by generations before us, but it was given a name in the 1980s: shinrin-yoku. "Shinrin in Japanese means 'forest,' and yoku means 'bath,'" Qing Li wrote for TIME. "Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world." Japan launched a national program to encourage forest bathing in 1982 as a way to help combat mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicide (via Adventure.com).

The forest bathing movement has continued in Japan and spread across the world. The practice is more active than traditional meditation since you're out in nature, but it's not a hike, since there's no real destination. And every time it will be different. "Sometimes there are lots of birds flying, and that's easy to see. Sometimes it's the wind blowing — the slightest breeze is making one little leaf twirl in circles," Haida Bolton, forest therapy guide in British Columbia, Canada, explained to Hello BC.

The benefits of forest bathing

Forest bathing definitely has positive health effects. Ph.D. Devani Paige, a holistic expert and meditation/yoga teacher at L'Auberge de Sedona, explains, "There is a presence, a healer ... a beneficial quality that is felt while slowing down in nature that cannot be denied." Researchers have found that walking and spending time in the forest, compared to the same amount of time in a city setting, lowers blood pressure and can boost your immunity and your mood (via NPR). It may even help you get a better night's sleep, according to Adventure.com.

It can even potentially help with problem-solving and sparking new ideas. Bolton goes into why that is, "Whether you're an architect or a painter or a writer, so much creative inspiration comes from slowing down in the forest and noticing the details with all our senses." 

So if you're having trouble quieting your mind, sleeping, or coming up with the next big idea, forest bathing just might be the answer.