Today, I want to talk to you briefly about something called Shinrin Yoku. Never heard of it? Maybe you are familiar with its other name, forest bathing? You might be thinking, "hold up...how can you bathe in a forest?" When I tell you it is chefs kiss...I really mean it.
Developed in the 1980s in Japan, it is a form of therapy that became a cornerstone of preventative healthcare and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have found many health benefits from spending some good, quality time in nature amongst the trees. I will be writing an article about this in more detail later but the general gist of it is that after just 15 minutes of forest bathing, blood pressure drops, stress levels are reduced and concentration and mental clarity improve.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, try it out for yourself! This can be done alone or with others.
Step 1) Pack a bag with a comfy blanket, a flask of nettle tea (or your favourite herbal blend) and some yummy healthy snacks (my favourite is dark chocolate and dried peaches).
Step 2) Dress appropriately! If you end up in shorts, wear good shoes and high socks. You know how pesky thorns and nettles can be on your ankles!
Step 3) Put away all distractions. Put your phone away, leave anything else unnecessary behind. You want all of your senses to be focussed on the magical world around you!
Step 4) Find a forest...go there...
Step 5) Walk into the woods and find a good, quiet spot that feels right for you. Close your eyes and take several deep, slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on the sounds around you. The birds, the wind blowing through the leaves. Pick one sound to focus on. Then think about what you can smell. Can you smell wet moss? Mud? Then open your eyes and look around you. What can you see? Green trees, brown wood, the sky? Pick one thing to look at and focus on it for a few moments. Now walk around and touch what's around you. Is the ground dry? Are the leaves brittle? Pick something off the ground and hold it in your hand. Smell it, feel it, focus on it.
Step 6) Now that your senses are tuned into the forest, start walking. Wander aimlessly, focussing on what you can hear, see, smell and touch. Stop and feel a mossy branch. Smell the flowers and plants around you. Take a moment to listen. Most importantly, DO NOT RUSH! Walk slowly and calmly. Time is not important right now. Practise deep breathing as you go and just take in the forest. Let your mind wander.
Step 7) If appropriate and safe, take off your shoes and socks. This is optional of course but personally, this is my favourite part. There is something special about walking through the forest barefoot. It reconnects us to our origins. Our bodies were designed to walk without shoes.
Step 8) Find another spot that calls to you. Sit, lay down on your blanket, whatever feels right. Stay there as long as necessary. Maybe you entered the woods with a question in your mind. Maybe ask for clarity. While you are peaceful and removed from the stresses of everyday life, take some time to ponder things that may be difficult to analyse in the hustle and bustle of normal life.
Step 9) Drink the tea and eat the snacks. Offer some to the woods, if you feel so inclined. Offer a thank you to the sacred space that was once our home.
Step 10) If you go with others, make sure you all agree to resist talking. On your way back, you can share your experiences.