Are we going skinny dipping in the woods? I’ll pass but be my guest. The beauty of forest bathing is that it consists of simply walking in the forest. No rules. Take your time and allow your senses to become one with nature. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste? Walk at your own pace. Forest bathing isn’t hiking. Heck, it doesn’t have to be exercise. The goal is to get into nature and let your senses guide you.
A little background. The phrase “forest bathing” is a literal translation of the Japanese words “shinrin” (Forest) and “yoku” (Bath). The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries created the term in the late 1980’s to encourage residents in crowded cities to take a break from the stresses of urban life.
In 2016, the Western medical field learned about forest bathing and has been increasing awareness of the concept. Doctors have praised forest bathing’s health benefits such as the decreased risk of heart attack, obesity defense and mood enhancement. Research backs up forest bathing’s assets with sciencey words such as phytoncides, aromatic compounds that plants release (good) and cortisol, which measures stress levels (low-good, high-bad).
Sounds great. But I don’t have time to drive to a ginormous national park.
You don’t have to. Every city has parks, nature preserves and national recreation areas. Even better, forest bathing is possible in any natural setting; deserts or swamps, for example.
With practice, a backyard can become your personal forest bathing space. Avoid trespassing, if possible.
To give an idea of forest bathing’s transformative powers, I kept a journal during a recent wandering through the woods.
3:57 P.M. Clock out from work and receive the second automated affirmation of the day: “You’ve clocked your time successfully.” Drained, feeling claustrophobic from working in 1100 square feet with five other people. Change into hiking clothes and drive to Island Ford Recreation Center in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody.
The video below demonstrates the transition from gridlock to grassy knoll.
4:31 Arrive at the park. Listen to the gravel crunch pulling into the parking space.
4:32 Exhale and begin walking the path.
It’s 94 degrees but feels twenty degrees cooler on the trail. The trees have shades of green with names like parakeet, seafoam and Sacramento. The names seem out of place yet conform to the forest palette. Immediately hear birds chirping with high-pitched, nasally RAH-RAHs.
4:36 The air swooshing through the trees reinforces the rustling leaves.
4:41 Wander off trail to check out mushrooms growing out of a fallen tree. Wipe off ants crawling up my leg.
4:44 Come across Bruce, a retired accountant from Dunwoody, Ga. Comes to the park with his adult daughter, who has disabilities, and their black Labrador Retriever. Their goal is to exercise and meet other people with dogs. He’s never heard of forest bathing. Bruce wrings out an apprehensive smile to politely decline a photo request.
4:47 Feeling an itchy/stinging sensation on my left calf from the ants.
4:49 Prolonged, muted growl of a jet engine augments the calm whoosh of the breeze.
4:54 Hear the geese honking over the river’s flow. Work is in the past. Talk to David and Cathy from Ottowa, Canada. They came to the park with their son to walk their dogs and because their son said the park was beautiful. They’ve never heard of forest bathing either and are camera-shy, too.
4:58 Step into the river to dull the ant stinging. The water moves at the same speed and has the same temperature as one of those wine chilling machines. The river bottom is squishy like chilled waffle batter.
5:03 Stop to ponder some really big rocks. What kind of rocks are they? How old are they? Regret not paying attention in freshman geology. Wonder why they aren’t covered with graffiti. Can smell the humidity in the air.
5:06 A holly bush stands out. While examining the leaves, I prick myself several times. Sharper than the ant bites but less pernicious.
5:08 Tune into a jet droning, birds singing, crickets chirping and geese honking at the same time. Inhaling the piney aroma of the forest.
5:10 Become aware that I’m not thinking about anything. Very relieving.
5:13 Come across a couple walking a terrier type dog. They enthusiastically say “Hi!” Don’t bother asking them about forest bathing. After Bruce, David and Cathy, have concluded that hikers want to chat on the trail but don’t want to interview.
5:16 Notice that I’m consciously looking to the forest and unconsciously looking at the river.
5:19 Reach the end of the trail.
Head back to the car tired yet re-energized. Feel like calling the clock-in number at work to hear the automated voice say, “You’ve clocked your time successfully.”
If you enjoy the serenity of wandering through the forest, like and share this post. Comments are always welcome.
2 thoughts on “Forest Bathing (Video)”
Best one yet! Very nice