Forest Bathing

January 2019

photo of female park rangerBy Ranger Lauren

View down shaded park trailIt is Jan­u­ary, and that means New Year’s resolutions. The talk this time of year is usually about exer­cise, doing some­thing good for your body, and in­creasing your well-being. Sound familiar?

As a new mom, my New Year’s resolution is to in­crease the quality and quantity of sleep I get (a futile effort, I’m sure). Luckily, there’s a cheap and easy activity that can help with all of our wellness-related resolutions.

Enter: Forest Bathing

It’s not really a bath like the kind with bubbles, although it can relax you like one. It’s not about improving phys­i­cal fitness, either, at least not in the traditional sense.

So, what is Forest Bathing? Forest bathing is taking the time to unwind and connect with nature to improve your health. It’s bath­ing in the forest atmosphere and taking in the forest through your senses. The idea is to take some time for yourself to become one with the forest and tune in to its smells, textures, tastes, and sights.

How does this help with my New Year’s resolution, you ask? Well, researchers have established a huge collection of evi­dence that there are health benefits of spending time in natural areas. For example, sci­en­tists have discovered that many trees give off organic com­pounds that support our “NK” (natural killer) cells, which are part of our immune system's arsenal against cancer. Another study showed that just looking at trees through a hospital window decreased recovery time for surgery patients.

View of small, quiet creek with trees hanging over.

The sci­en­tif­ically-prov­en ben­e­fits of For­est Bath­ing in­clude:

  • Boost in immune system functioning
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Increased ability to focus
  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep (Note: while this list doesn’t say anything about improving quantity of sleep, I’ll take what I can get!)

pink flowerLuckily, it’s easy to get these amazing benefits. First, you need to find a spot - any patch of forest will do, and make sure you leave your phone behind. Taste the fresh­ness of the air as you take deep breaths. Let nature in through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Try lying on the ground, eating a snack, med­i­tating, listening to a creek, or noticing the foliage.

Need some help getting started? Join me for a Forest Bathing program on Feb. 2 at 10 a.m.! I will guide you on a leisurely walk with activities to help you open your senses, de-stress, and ex­per­ience the forest as you never have before. Visit our Events page for more info, and in the meantime, good luck with your New Year’s resolutions!