How forest bathing can bring you closer to nature

Suffering from 'nature-deficit disorder'? Here’s how the ancient Japanese practice of forest bathing can help.

It’s no secret that spending time in nature can be beneficial for the mind, body and soul. With today’s busy lifestyles and our obsession with digital technology, it’s easy to forget just how rejuvenating a walk in a park can be.

Forest bathing or ‘Shinrin Yoku’ is taking root in Australia and it’s all about being in the presence of trees and incorporating gentle mindfulness exercises. Forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.

Here’s five tips to help you connect with nature on a deeper level from South Australia’s first certified Forest Therapy guide.

1. Give yourself time to relax and restore

Rather than taking a vigorous park hike, take a slow walk of no more than 1-2 kilometres in three hours.

By taking things very slowly, you’ll have the time to truly absorb your surroundings which will help you de-stress, relax, restore and reconnect.

2. Take notice

Rather than letting the sounds of the birds be part of the background, take notice of the bird and insect conversations surrounding you, or the changing sounds of the breeze in the trees. Paying attention to something in the moment, to the experiences of your senses, brings you into the present, which has a calming effect.

3. Enjoy the mystery

You might not know the name of that beautiful flower in your favourite park, but what can you notice about its scent, colours, textures and size?

Ask yourself what you find intriguing about this being. Is there something particularly beautiful about it? What questions come to you as you enjoy the mystery of this being? Wallow in the unknown.

4. Look closely

Let nature draw you in. Find a plant, rock, or living being that draws your attention and take time to become familiar with it. What can you find if you look closely at all its textures and colours? What does it smell like? Is it rough or smooth, or soft or hard?

Take a magnifying glass and zoom in. Have an even closer look at something – how does it change? What’s different about it when it’s magnified? Where does your imagination and your curiosity take you?

5. Be thankful

Find a way to be grateful during your experience. Thank each being that brings you a positive experience, thank the forest, or the beach, or the wind, or the creek, or whatever feels right in the moment. Gratitude improves wellbeing and helps you to experience more joy and pleasure in life.

If you’re tempted to give forest bathing a go – but would prefer to be guided through the experience – a Forest Therapy Guide can help walk you through it.

South Australia’s first certified Forest Therapy Guide is now hosting tours in parks, including one at Para Wirra Conservation Park on Sunday 28 May

(Main image courtesy of Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs)

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