When we’re stuck inside on a hot day, the thought of a cold swim is luscious. There’s nothing quite like that first dive into welcoming water. But when we’re unable to get to water, there’s another type of bathing that also works wonders for cooling down a sweltering system and leaving the body feeling rejuvenated and calm.

Forest Bathing, known in Japan as Shin-rin Yoku, is the practice of moving slowly and mindfully through a wood or forest, allowing the five senses to fully appreciate the presence of the surrounding trees, dappled light and cool shadows.

When we immerse ourselves in a forest, it can feel like stepping into another world, one full of magic, secrets, and healing powers. In our busy lives it is a treat to step away from the hard edges of our buildings and the constant business of phones and work, to let ourselves be surrounded by soft lines, uneven ground, and the curious gaze of birds, squirrels and, if you’re quiet enough, maybe even a deer or two.

It’s been proved that forest bathing is good for the health, with studies showing that it can lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.

And forest bathing is easy to do, simply going for a walk where you are surrounded by trees, and then slowing right down so that you are able to appreciate the smell, sounds, tastes, and feel of what’s around you. One tip is to stop walking every five minutes or so, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths. Take note of everything you can hear. Listen carefully for the birds, the wind rustling the trees, other people around you. Then take a deep breath through your nose and take some time to discern what you can smell. Wood smoke on the wind? The scent of pine? The rich must of falling leaves? Finally open your eyes and look around afresh. How do the trees look in this restful moment? Let your eyes move over the myriad colours and shapes. When you’re ready you can begin to walk again, but s-l-o-w-l-y, noticing what is on the ground, and up above you, as much as what is around you.

It’s wonderful to do this alone but can also be fun to do with friends or in a group. If you are with others it can be helpful to all agree to a minute or two’s silent walking, to let yourself feel the togetherness of the group without disturbing the peace with too many words.

How to Forest Bathe:

  1. Find a quiet tree-filled place near you
  2. Turn off your phone (or put on airplane mode so you won’t be disturbed by calls or messages)
  3. Let yourself meander, following your body without thinking too much about where you’re going.
  4. Take notice of your breath. Slow down your breathing until you feel yourself relax.
  5. Stop occasionally and tune into your senses. When you start moving again, remain slow and calm.
  6. If you find a lovely spot, take a seat and allow your thoughts to wander as you become attuned to your peaceful surroundings.
  7. Go back to your day feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

Good places for Forest Bathing in Bristol:

Go to Treatments.