Bathing in the forest is the therapeutic practice of spending time in nature — particularly, in forests. Beneath a canopy of trees.
Allowing me to soak in what the wonderful Costa Rican jungle has to offer, while out forest bathing.
― Nicole, Anahana Wellness Instructor.
What Is Forest Bathing?
A walk in the woods — could this really be the medicine you’ve been looking for?
If you're wondering, no, forest bathing has nothing to do with taking an actual bath in the forest. Rather, it has to do with taking in the environment around you, basking in nature's embrace. Bathing in the forest is the therapeutic practice of spending time in nature — particularly, in forests. Beneath a canopy of trees, this practice allows you to be at one with nature, listening to its calming sounds, admiring the calming pictures and snapshots of organic life, and smelling the fresh air, simply feeling the stress disappear.
Essentially, the practice involves a walk in the woods. There is no goal or “end.” The point is simply to be in nature. It is ecotherapy at its finest and mindfulness at its core. It is also an excellent stress management activity.
Where Does it Come From?
The practice of “bathing in the forest” or nature bathing comes from Japan. There, it is called shinrin yoku1. “Shinrin” means forest, and “yoku” means bath or bathing. It was first suggested by the Forest Agency of Japan in 19822 as a way to live a healthier lifestyle.
Benefits of Nature Walks
A multitude of scientific evidence shows that spending more time in nature promotes numerous benefits for both the mind and body. Not only are forest walks themselves known to improve mental health, but they’re also simply a good way to get some physical exercise.
Let’s look at the specific benefits people in nature can expect from spending more time in the forest and taking more nature walks:
Relaxation: The quiet calm and solitude you get from a nature walk can inspire the relaxation response in your body.
Fresh air for the lungs: Smog and other pollution in cities and heavily-populated areas can irritate the lungs and contribute to breathing problems. Nature time can act as a reset.
A break from technology: A constant stream of technology and information can blind you to the beauty of the earth.
Connect with the world: Feel like you belong and are connected to the world.
Physical exercise: Fitting fitness into your week doesn’t have to mean going for a run or doing a prescribed workout. Sometimes, nature walks fit the bill perfectly.
- Improved sleep: It has also shown to have a positive effect on your sleeping habits. Regular nature walks will improve your sleeping at night.
What Are Phytoncides?
Phytoncides are wood essential oils emitted from trees and other plants3. According to research, phytoncides offer a number of benefits, including improved immune function and possibly even a reduction in depression and anxiety.
While some scientists, like those involved in trials like the Landscape Depression Studies, are examining how oral medications affect patients who struggle with depression, many experts are reminding the population that nature has its own way of healing as well.
A walk in the woods cannot replace guidance from a licensed doctor, but it may be a way to add to or further enhance a healthy lifestyle.
Be Prepared for Your Hike
Ready to hit the hiking trails? Looking for “forest bathing near me”? In order to be fully “bathed” in your wooded surroundings, you should start by finding a good piece of forest.
Look at national, state, and local parks; you’ll likely be able to find a nice trail or two to start with
Of course, you also need to be comfortable. Here are a few things you may need to enhance comfort on your hike:
Comfortable boots or shoes
A water bottle and make sure to stay hydrated
A map of the hiking trails and/or entire forest
A hiking backpack to carry any belongings
Forest Baths: Frequently Asked Questions
What is forest bathing?
“Taking a forest bath” is the practice of immersing yourself in the nature of the forest. It involves going into a forest, beneath a canopy of trees, and quietly spending time there, soaking up your surroundings.
What is the Japanese word for forest bathing?
The Japanese word for the practice of “bathing in the forest” is shinrin-yoku.
Do I need any special equipment?
Depending on where and for how long you will be going bathing in the forest, yes, you may need some hiking gear, including but not limited to:
hiking boots or hiking shoes that are comfortable, waterproof, durable, and lightweight
hiking backpack that is lightweight, waterproof, and has plenty of space
hiking pants that are comfortable, wicks away moisture, and has pockets
hiking poles or a hiking stick for stability
a forest bathing book (especially if you don’t have an instructor to guide you)
Is forest bathing good for you?
Yes. The point of these hiking projects is to provide benefits to the mind, body, and soul. A shinrin-yoku (the Japanese term for a forest bath), is helpful because it reduces stress, improves feelings of joy, helps you relax, and brings you in tune with the natural world.
Where does forest bathing originate from?
The practice of bathing in the forest, or shinrin-yoku, originated in Japan in the 1980s. Hiking projects were originally thought of by the Japanese government4 as a way to combat the “adverse effects of the tech boom on Japanese city dwellers.”
What is forest bathing certification?
Bathing in the forest is often used in classes, rehabilitation programs, and wellness retreats. As such, it may require teachers and instructors who can show students and participants exactly how to enjoy this practice in order to reap the most benefits.
A forest bathing certification, then, is a way of providing a strong base for those who wish to practice and/or teach this activity to others.
Are you looking to destress and relax? Why not have a chat with an Anahana Wellness Advisor to discuss your needs and wishes? We are here to help and hope to hear from you soon!