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Forest Therapy

 

When did you last spend time in a forest? I mean, really spend time in a forest? Walking, listening, sitting, breathing deeply. Maybe even on your own? Feeling the pine needles crunch beneath your shoes or the moss squish softly as you tread on it. Hearing the birds chirp, the woodpeckers scrimmage around the trunks of trees, the squirrels leap without a sound from branch to branch. The sway of the tree tops as the wind catches them. The sunlight filtering through branches. Chipmunks chasing each other around the shrubs, the bees buzzing in the blossoms of the boysenberry bushes and foxglove flowers. Hear the unmistakable call of the bald eagle or the osprey. Watch the ducklings swim around – or waddle over – the water-lily leaves in a pond. See the goslings flap their tiny yellow fuzzy wings for the first time.

 

If you can relate to the scenery I just described, then good news – it may not have been that long since you enjoyed the forest. If you can’t, then either you live in a more barren part of the world, or you are overdue to fuel up on the calming, healing effects of forest bathing.

 

 

Forest bathing? You laugh? It’s a thing!

 

A really good thing. Have you tried it? It’s actually a pretty amazing experience. And its benefits are substantiated by science. The practice of forest therapy is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, increase cerebral blood flow and improved mental health. Not bad for a walk in the park, right?

 

 

The Japanese have been onto “forest bathing” since the early 80’s

 

And they are on to something. They call it Shinrin-yoku and it is easy to do by simply being with the trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than try to accomplish something. I have done it and love it. Truth be told, because I’m an active on-the-go person, it does take a conscious effort for me to be still in the forest. Usually, I am running the trails or riding them with my daughter in her bike stroller. But whenever my internal needle edges towards “overwhelm”, taking quiet time in the forest is one of the best ways to find my center again. You don’t need to sign up for a class, you can do it according to your schedule and you don’t even need to pay for it.

 

 

Research has shown over and over again what we humans know intuitively: Forests are the ideal space for transcendent experiences.

 

Such experiences are defined as “Unforgettable moments of extreme happiness and attunement to that outside of the self.”  They are unique moments we can create in places where we can access harmony and think about our higher life purpose. And they help us shape who we want to be from a place of clarity and serenity.

 

 

Want to try it for yourself?

  1. Schedule a length of time away from your favorite distractions and dedicate it to yourself. For the full benefit, you need about 40 minutes, but feel free to spend more time if you have it.
  2. Find a forest. Can’t find one near you? Find a park, garden or wilderness areas to take its place.
  3. Turn your phone off. Be still. Sit on a log, rock or on the ground or stroll slowly.
  4. Look around and take in all of the details of the sights and sounds you see. Take in the full 360 degree view. Don’t feel shy about getting down low to see the forest from another perspective. Look at the underbrush all the way to the tree top heights. B r e a t h e.
  5. Close your eyes. Now take the sounds in again. Notice how the sounds feel different, when you take out the other senses. Notice how your skin feels as it “drinks” up the healthy, cleansing energy of the forest.
  6. Focus on the now. Be in the present. Let thoughts about the future or the past pass right through your brain without attachment. Let them go. You don’t need them right now.  Simply enjoy being alive in this very moment.

 

         **Optional for the adventurous: If it is warm enough, do the above al fresco – or close to it. Yup, you read correctly. The more actual physical exposure you have to the forest atmosphere, the deeper the positive impacts are on your body and soul. In fact, the Japanese like to replicate a sauna experience for their forest bathing! At the very least, go barefoot to really ground yourself.**

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post! It’s fascinating how ideas and practices outside of our norm, can richly contribute to a life well lived. Know of any other out of the ordinary practices you find helpful? Pay it forward and leave them in the comments section below for others to enjoy too.

 

 

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Namaste,

Simone

 

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