Forest bathing is not what you think ...

In a world full of movement and work, many of us here in Colorado look to our time in nature to slow down, rejuvenate, and reconnect with ourselves and the natural world around us. The activity that has been popular for many years in Japan has found its way to the forests and woods of Colorado.

This outdoor activity isn’t new, nor does it involve bathing in the buff in a mountain stream, though the name leads one to believe that it might! What the term "forest bathing" refers to is a concept the Japanese call "shinrin-yoku," the practice of soaking up one’s natural surroundings with all our senses. The act of spending some time in nature, disconnecting from technology and our ever-present screens, letting everything else just be put aside, and being mindful of the nature that surrounds us and makes up our world.

bench in woods

Courtesy of Pixabay

Forest bathing is not about hiking the highest peak, having the fastest time, or going the furthest distance. It is a far more intimate process, where one really slows down and internalizes the natural world around them. Taking in the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and emotions that the natural environment brings out. A sort of walking meditation among the trees, plants, and wildlife that we so often overlook or forget is there.

The forest is a therapeutic environment, and our bodies and minds respond to it in a very positive way. Forest bathing is a much slower, much more focused experience, and is a retreat into the outdoors, into nature, and really letting ourselves become part of it.

There's a lot of research out there that supports the idea of forest bathing, especially when it comes to connecting with nature and what it does for our bodies and minds. Being among nature can reduce stress, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and is viewed as a form of long-term preventative health care. Public health studies have shown lowered levels of hostility and depression, as well as increased levels of liveliness in those who spend time forest bathing.

There are proven long-term benefits to the practice, and this is part of why this activity is starting to rise in popularity outside of Japan.

walking in woods

Courtesy of Pixabay

A study last year showed that exposure to green space and nature reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, preterm birth, preterm death, stress, and high blood pressure. This is all great news for nature lovers, and great motivation to get up and off the couch to enjoy some sunshine.

In Colorado, the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy is offering two opportunities to learn about the forest bathing practice; the first is a Forest Therapy Guide Training in September 2019, which is a week-long intensive program, and the second event is an immersion experience open to anyone who wants (and pays), while spots last. This five-day event takes place at the YMCA of the Rockies and is intended to bring attendees closer to nature and to themselves.  

In Boulder, the city offers free weekly nature walks during the summer, as well as guided forest bathing hikes put on by Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department. Up in Vail, you can attend a Forest Therapy and Yoga Immersion Day on September 7, which is being put on by Strength for Journey.

Forest bathing seems very simple and calm, yet has tremendous benefit. It seems like something people here in Colorado can get behind – especially since many of us are often so focused on going very quickly and getting so much done – and it's a great reminder to slow down and enjoy nature in all its glory.

Have you heard about forest bathing? What do you think about this idea of slowing down and disconnecting from all the things we are plugged into, like our phones, computers, work, social media, the news, and instead, taking a slow walk in the woods? This is the kind of therapy we can happily go to, so let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.