Is ‘Forest Bathing’ Really Just Walking Around In The Forest?

Yes.

I spent the past week and weekend mostly unplugged. If you’ve been reading these posts you know that I am currently not working. I write this blog to help keep structure and discipline and creativity flowing and also because I can’t sit around in my house all day doing nothing. Last week I made it a goal to be as active as possible to see if it would help my mood. Sometimes I can’t tell if I am actually depressed or if it is just the gaining force of 12 long months of social isolation and pandemic anxiety. 

I recently bought a bike and am finding my bike rides wholly enjoyable if only because no matter what endorphins are released through exercise. I am in the business of finding long term sustainable sources of dopamine and endorphins.

Everyday last week I took my bike or just my legs to the beach or to the forest for a hike or bike ride. The weather was mostly nice so I tried to spend as much as I could of it outside.

There’s something very holistic about walking around in nature getting a little dirty and pretending you are Kate from Lost. Forest bathing or ‘shin-rin yoku’ in Japenese (where the term originates) means to walk in the forest taking in the atmosphere with all of your senses. No music, no running, just trying to take in the sights, sounds, textures and smells. 

I am on the somewhat skeptical side and irony-poisoned to a fault. I do Yoga and Meditation but I am super turned off by all of the woo-woo language around it. I’d love to believe in energies and auras and all that but I don’t. When I first heard of forest bathing I thought it was very dumb. I wondered what could possibly be gleaned from walking around in the forest alone, but am sometimes (often) a judgemental idiot who takes being proven wrong in stride (afterall, I am not fully formed, I am still learning and changing every minute) 

Forest bathing feels good. I spent 5 of out the last 7 days waking up in the morning, putting on rain boots or running shoes and taking my judgemental ass into the woods to see what I could be taught from being presently engaged with nature. 

I walked around feeling sun or rain on my face wholly disconnected from phone, acting world, professional anxiety and roommate, money, covid woes. I took my time and smelled the earth and vegetation and spring air. 

At first I thought ‘what is the point of this’ but on day 3 I realized the point of anything is just to experience. To experience people, places and things. 

I am lucky enough to be in a covid bubble with like-minded people who enjoy getting into the woods so I was able to take part in a nice long hike with fire one of the days. We had a couple of drinks and built a fire and someone asked what actually makes us happy. It was a tough question to answer because a lot of really asinine things make me happy and I would not want to share them aloud. But the thing that makes me most happy is presence and connection. Being present with people and with the world around me. That was a revelation that I happened upon in the forest. The people I love the most are the ones who are present. Forest bathing forces you to be present.

After the afternoon in the forest with pals I felt nourished in a really good way. When got home around 10-11pm and though I was exhausted, I felt good. Really good. 

It’s a boneheaded concept to say ‘Nature makes me feel good!’ and a lot of you are probably reading this going ‘obviously you stupid bitch’ but sometimes you can know things are good for you and still not bother to do them. Sometimes you feel like the good feelings you get from a hike aren’t worth the energy it takes to go do one but after some (definitely scientific) research my conclusion it is. It works. Forest bathing works. It feels good and is mood boosting.

If you’re looking to just feel in your body and to lose a touch of the stress from living through a literal fucking plague. I can’t suggest it enough. If you’re overwhelmed or anxious or just generally having a low mood, go walk around in the forest. 

This method is Welltried and works. 

x

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