2. Select the right time
Choose a convenient time of the day when you can practice forest bathing on a daily or weekly basis. You should also decide on the duration of your practice. If you are a beginner, a shorter session (15-20 minutes) can be beneficial, while longer sessions of around an hour or more can also have significant mental, physical and spiritual benefits. However, if you plan on going for daily sessions then shorter durations can be more practical and effective as it will easily fit into your daily schedule. If you have a busy schedule, then longer sessions during the weekend can help.
3. Pause, breathe and be mindful
The main objective of Shinrin-Yoku is to fully immerse yourself in the natural environment and absorb the natural elements. Simply close your eyes, become aware of your senses and breathe mindfully. Slow down your thoughts and observe even the most subtle sensations. Be mindful about your environment and take in even the smallest details. Clear your mind of any stressful or anxious thoughts and live in the present moment.
4. Connect with nature
Look for a safe and comfortable place in the forest or park and just allow yourself to experience the innate connection you share with nature. Gently touch the trees and plants, feel the soft breeze and the sunlight touching your skin. Enjoy the cool shade under the canopy of the trees. Listen to the birds chirping, water flowing and leaves rustling. Look at the colors and patterns in nature. Observe all the different animals and insects around you and how they react to your presence. Smell the flowers and the soil by breathing deeply in the fresh clean air in the environment.
5. Allow yourself to simply be
Sit down and calmly watch how life unfolds around you while you’re amidst nature. Observe your surroundings, allow your mind to wander, let yourself feel whatever emotions arise naturally, give yourself permission to explore your surroundings and connect with your inner self. Let nature and forest bathing help you discover who you truly are by simply being your most authentic self.
6. Stay safe
Although nature can be healing and soothing, it can also be raw and wild. This is why it is very important that you take adequate safety precautions to protect yourself from probable threats and dangers. Always remain aware of your surroundings, stay in areas where other people are present or visible, walk through marked trails, ask security or rangers for safe locations and guidance, wear appropriate gear and remember to protect your skin from allergies, rashes and insect bites. You should also avoid wandering away too much while exploring as getting lost in a forested area is a common occurrence.
It is also important that you do some research about the flora and fauna about the location you plan on visiting for forest bathing. Remember staying safe should be your top priority and it is often best to bring a friend or a loved one with you. In case, you are determined to have a solo experience, let someone know about your location and the duration of your stay.
7. Carry necessary items only
If you plan on having an authentic Shinrin-Yoku experience by visiting a forest, then you need to pack for necessary supplies only, like food, water & a first aid kit, and keep your backpack or luggage as light as possible. It is important that you carry your smartphone for safety purposes, but make sure to use it only in case of emergency so that you’re not constantly distracted by it. Remember that it is not a hiking trip so avoid taking pictures for social media. Instead focus on the experience and sensations.
Things to keep in mind
Here are a few other steps to remember while you are engaging in and practicing Shinrin-Yoku –
- Do not practice it like a chore. Detach from your daily chaotic life as this practice is meant to relax your mind and make you feel happier from inside.
- Bring adequate food and water and remember to stay hydrated.
- Learn about the weather conditions before planning your trip.
- Research about the available services and help in the area.
- Make sure to carry first aid equipment and lotions to protect your skin.
- Look out for wildlife and avoid engaging with them.
- Make sure to carry a map of the region. Avoid relying on digital maps as your device may run out of battery or get damaged.
- As it is a nature-based sensory experience, do not let your devices and gadgets disturb your experience by distracting you.
- Avoid having any expectations or objectives. Forest bathing is about observing the sensations of being in nature.
- Avoid talking to your friend or other people while you are wandering aimlessly. You can freely share your experiences once it is over.
- Breathe deeply and mindfully observe your thoughts and emotions at the moment.
- Do not rush through the process. Take your time, slowly explore your surroundings and wander aimlessly. Practice for as long as you feel comfortable.
Can forest bathing help you?
Exposure to nature as a form of therapy is not a new phenomenon. We have always shared an instinctively intimate connection with nature, typically for our subsistence & production. Humans are naturally meant to deeply connect with nature. Hence, it is not surprising that spending time in nature and being around trees can lead to improved mental and physical health. “Greenspace exposure is associated with numerous health benefits,” states a 2018 study. Not only it helps to boost our immune system, physiological relaxation and stress recovery, it also has positive neuro-psychological effects in our nervous system.