Stress. We all live with it each day. It may even be unavoidable in modern life. But it doesn’t have to get you down.
Over the years, we’ve given countless tips to help you hit the reset button. Whether it’s meditation, deep breathing, or just listening to relaxing music, there are several ways to find comfort when you need a break.
Dr. Qing Li, a medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School, has his own. Every day, when the weather is not too harsh, he spends his lunch break in a leafy park. Once a month he also heads to the forests near Tokyo, using all five senses to connect with Nature. This practice, called shinrin-yoku – literally, forest bathing – has been scientifically proven to slow your pulse, reduce stress, and curb your anxiety levels. After all, we are designed to be connected with Nature, to listen to the wind and taste the air.
What Is Forest Bathing?
When presented with the idea of forest bathing, people think that it’s just a fancy name for something they’ve been doing all their lives: taking a walk in the park or the woods. That’s not entirely true. Usually, when you go for a walk, it’s just a quick, brisk one. If it isn’t, you usually end up worrying about where the dog has run off to – or maybe you start thinking about your work goals or your worries. A better way to frame forest bathing is a blend of exercise and meditation where you are deeply mindful of Nature’s sounds, smells, and sights. You have to stay in the present moment, giving your body and your mind a chance to slow down.
How To Forest Bathe
Use all your senses as you go into the woods for a forest bath. Move very slowly, touch the trees, look at the colors and patterns, breathe in the scent of the forest. Let the forest in. Personally, I am always awed by the shades of green and blue where the trees touch the sky and by the pattern of the branches and leaves. Lying down under the trees and looking up I can finally stop the thoughts spinning in my head.
One of my favorite Japanese words is Komorebi. It refers to the way the light filters through the trees and dances on the forest floor. There is something absolutely poetic and almost magical about it. When going for a forest bath, pay special attention to the light through the leaves, and allow yourself to get lost in its movement.
Join a Group
Interest in forest bathing has really taken off as of late. There is a growing recognition by the medical profession of its value, in large part thanks to the work by Dr. Qing Li. This means that nowadays there are several forest bathing groups to join if you want to give shinrin-yoku a try. Going with others is a great idea, but you should definitely consider making an agreement to resist talking until the end of the walk. This way, you’ll be able to mindfully savor the experience and only then share it with others.
If the whole idea of forest bathing sounds too hippy-dippy for you, why don’t you ease yourself into the practice with some lovely forest sounds? The rustle of leaves in the wind and the gentle singing of forest birds are already making me feel better.