What is forest bathing and where can you go forest bathing in the UK?

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  • When we say forest bathing, we don’t mean relaxing in a hot tub in a woodland Airbnb.

    But rather, something with its roots in a wellness activity that’s been popular in Japan for decades. And this ritual is far simpler than it sounds, just don your best walking shoes for women and venture out to your nearest woodland area to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of the forest – it may benefit your mind, and body, more than you realise.

    What is forest bathing?

    Forest bathing is known in Japan as ‘shinrin-yoku’ and was first coined in the 1980s as a way to reconnect with nature. So why does this wellness activity take place in woodland?

    “There is also a distinct difference between ‘nature’ in general and a forest in particular. Nature can include many environments,” author of Forest Bathing, Katriina Kilpi, told w&h.

    MORE: ‘Walking with purpose’ better for your health than a casual stroll, says study

    “Imagine a park or a country road. Nice places and often somehow touched by the human hand. Cut grass, crops growing, monoculture of something, perhaps even pesticide residues hanging in the air or leaking into the waterways.”

    What are the benefits of forest bathing?

    There are multiple benefits of forest bathing. They include, but are not limited to:

    • Mental clarity
    • Mood boost
    • Lower blood pressure
    • Lower stress levels
    • Stronger immune system

    Katriina Kilpi explains, “Of course, a forest environment has some particular physiological health benefits: the air is mostly cleaner (and it is quieter), especially in a big enough forest because the roads tend to be further
    away.

    “Therefore, the soundscape tends to also be more natural: bird song, wind in the trees, insects buzzing around, the sounds your feet make as you walk. These all have been shown to have positive effects on our health.”

    How to find forest bathing near me

    The National Trust website has a comprehensive guide to forest bathing and how to find a woodland area near you. Just visit the forest bathing section of their website and take a look at your local area.

    Forest bathing tips for beginners

    Forestry England suggest the following advice for those trying forest bathing for the first time:

    • Turn off your devices to give yourself the best chance of relaxing, being mindful and enjoying a sensory forest-based experience.

    • Slow down. Move through the forest slowly so you can see and feel more.

    • Take long breaths deep into the abdomen. Extending the exhalation of air to twice the length of the inhalation sends a message to the body that it can relax.

    • Stop, stand or sit, smell what’s around you, what can you smell?

    • Take in your surroundings using all of your senses. How does the forest environment make you feel? Be observant, look at nature’s small details.

    • Sit quietly using mindful observation; try to avoid thinking about your to-do list or issues related to daily life. You might be surprised by the number of wild forest inhabitants you see using this process.

    • Keep your eyes open. The colours of nature are soothing and studies have shown that people relax best while seeing greens and blues.

    • Stay as long as you can, start with a comfortable time limit and build up to the recommended two hours for a complete forest bathing experience.

    Haynes Publishing’s Forest Bathing Manual by Sarah Devos and Katriina Kilpi is priced at £12.99 and is available from www.haynes.com.

    Wishing you a restful and revitalising week ahead.

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