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  • Giles Sibbald

Forest Bathing – live and unplugged (almost)

As part of this experimenting malarkey, I headed into the forest to do some bathing. Did Shinrin Yoku immerse me?

Have you pictured those breathtaking Japanese hinoki cypress trees, towering over human beings, exuding the aromatic scent of woodland pine?

Dreamed of drinking in their graceful, healing energy?

I’m going back into nature to spend more time where I came from.

For 99.9% of our existence, human beings have lived as nomads in nature. It’s only relatively recently, that we have mobilized towards urban environments and become settlers surrounded by the technology swarm.

Shinrin Yoku is an ancient Japanese practice which translates literally as taking in the forest atmosphere through all our senses.

Shinrin Yoku is reconnecting with our natural habitat. Going back to our roots (excuse the stuff and nonsense pun).

Dr Qing Li is one of the leaders in forest medicine. Through his and others’ research, he has found that the forest allows the rest and recovery part of your brain – the parasympathetic nervous system – to take over from your fight and flight part – the sympathetic nervous system.

The benefits are incredible – calmness, better sleep, obesity reduction, blood pressure reduction, heart rate normalisation, hormonal improvement, stronger immune system, creativity, happiness.

You name it.

Universal energy

Basically the forest improves holistic physical and mental wellbeing.

Back when I was a kid, there was a lot less urban development where I grew up than there is now. Trees were all around us – for hiding amongst, for swinging on, for climbing, for falling off and occasionally for sitting under. To rest and grab your breath before hitting the next part of play.

Simple life, right? Whimsical, maybe, but formative on the young me in that simplicity. And as I’m getting older, well, the impression has been lasting.

So it’s about immersing oneself amongst trees, engaging and involving all 5 senses.

Digital free.

No purpose. Just being.

Walk, sit, breathe, meditate.

Hug the bark textures, plant your bare feet on the earth and feel its support, listen to the birds sing, the bees get busy.

Hear the boughs groan, the leaves whisper, smell the woodland, take in the oils from the trees, taste the air.

The Garden of Serenity

The tree on the cover of this story is my goto tree. I sit at its base, letting its trunk take the weight of my body as I lean back, pull my knees up and close my eyes.

Nothing else matters.

Anxiety dissipates.

Heart rate drops to an obedient lollop.

The mind de-clutters.

Concentration improves.

Memory feels stronger.

The calmness is still there.

Intuitively, it feels like Shinrin Yoku is maintaining and improving my self regulation, my self management and my empathy.

Basically, the forest is teaching me to care for my Emotional Intelligence.

And you know how important EQ is…

This feels like a lifestyle change.


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