A last minute trip to Jamberoo, New South Wales, to escape the hustle and bustle of Sydney city life was high on my agenda when I visited Australia.
I booked a beautiful Airbnb in the rolling hills of the countryside. I packed the basics: my surfboard, and a book to disconnect and unwind in this truly beautiful spot.
On closer personal inspection, I realised this was the perfect spot for some Forest Bathing.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing or 'Shinrin Yoku', has become wildly popular in recent years. Shinrin meaning Forest and Yoku meaning Bathing in Japanese.
It’s a Japanese practice that encourages you to spend time in nature, mindfully. It’s a simple method of being quiet and calm with no external distractions.
It’s great for improving your mental and physical health and wellbeing.
What are the benefits?
Shinrin Yoku, has been shown to improve your memory and concentration, reduce blood pressure and boost your immune system. It will aid your creative abilities and encourage feelings of joy and lightness. Similar to meditation, forest bathing encourages focusing on being present in the moment and helps elevate your senses.
There are studies that show people who walk outside in a park for 15 minutes every day, have decreased levels of stress and a lower heart rate. Research has also demonstrated the positive effects on Forest Bathing with people dealing with depression and anxiety.
How can I practice it?
For centuries many cultures have recognised the health benefits of being outdoors. With so many of us glued to our devices for the majority of the day and living in hectic urban environments, it can be an important daily practice to take stock of how we are feeling both internally and externally.
Remember the lockdown and how we were only allowed outside for limited periods of time? Think back to that hour you were allowed outside and how much lighter, brighter and more energised you felt when you returned home. This is what Forest Bathing is all about.
Now with our work and social lives as busy as ever ever, it can be hard to regularly get outside and walk in nature alone with no distractions.
However, allow yourself the pleasure of leaving your phone at home and going to your closest park and simply, breathing in the air deeply. You can either sit or if you prefer, walk around; you'll start to feel calm, you'll smell the scents wafting through the air and notice the noises around you (all the things you wouldn't notice if you were staring at your screen). These few moments of pausing and finding calm are meant to be pleasurable. If you can allow yourself the time to do this 1 - 2 times a week for 15 minutes, you will feel a noticeable difference and you don't necessarily have to go to a forest or woodland. A local park or garden is perfect.
Taking the time to get out in nature, mindfully focus on the present and being in natural world has been a popular pastime in Japan but is now widely known as a way to improve both mental physical health. The benefits have been studied and well documented.
Don't think of this as a chore, but rather as the art and simple pleasure of doing nothing, mindfully.