It is the latest craze sweeping the UK with the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge being a strong advocate for it…and with good reason. Forest Bathing, or in Japanese, ‘Shinrin-Yoku’ is the practice of spending time in a forest for relaxation, meditation or therapy. It first emerged in Japan in the 1980’s, as the answer to high levels of stress amongst frazzled, overworked businessmen. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestery and Fisheries discovered that when businessmen immersed themselves in woodland, they returned with lower anxiety levels, happier, more calm and contented.
Recently, it has received increased interest in the UK, with workshops and classes being held amidst ancient woodland, with the intention of people ‘bathing’ within the forest and benefiting from the experience of being among nature’s gifts.
Living on a farm with its own little pockets of woodland, I forest bathe often. I find it particularly useful when I am anxious or stressed. I turn off my phone, move slowly amongst the trees, observing nature and listening to its noises. I calm my breathing, inhaling deep into the abdomen and exhaling twice as long. I try to clear my mind. I forage, picking up little pieces of lichen and sticks that can be used around the farm later on. I find it has a hugely positive impact on my mental health.
Experts in forest bathing recommend two hours as a good amount of time to take part, but even 10 minutes has its benefits. It is believed that it can help boost immune systems, lower blood pressure and increase energy levels. The woodland trust has even suggested it should be prescribed by doctors to support well-being . This is known as “social prescribing” which is known as a growing movement within the NHS.
It is one of the many activities I would invite guests of our properties to use their stay for. In addition to the ancient woodland on our farm, we have a programme to plant more trees each year, making the farm an even greener environment and even better suited to forest bathing.
Despite its name, no swimming costumes are required although I’m sure if you really wanted to in the summer, then why not?
Try it and let me know how you find it!