Originated in Japan, forest bathing is an outdoor activity where people embark on a slow, aimless, and therapeutic walk in the forest. As sleazy as it may sound, studies have shown forest bathing can be very beneficial to our health and mental wellbeing. British doctors are even considering prescribing it to their patients!
The Healing Power or Mother Nature
The minute we unplug from the hustle and bustle and immerse ourselves in the forest, we are greeted by a refreshing boost of oxygen, as well as a chemical released by the greens called phytoncides, which is known to enhance our immune system. And as we slow down our steps and let go of our thoughts, our heart rate and blood pressure will also drop to accommodate the relaxed state of mind.
Research conducted by Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a professor at Chiba University, shows a leisure walk in the forest can lower the production of cortisol (our stress hormones) by 12.4% compared to urban walks and therefore lower our anxiety. Spending time outdoors is also known to help increase serotonin and endorphins (our happy hormones), leading to better mood, better creativity, and better mental health.
Now the next question is, how do we actually do “forest bathing”?
Let’s Take a Walk Through
According to The Nature and Forest Therapy Association, a typical forest bathing session will take about 2.5 hours, and the ideal locations are the ones that are easy and pleasant to walk on, have places for you to sit and rest, and have access to natural waterways.
There are no rules really. Just wear comfortable clothes and shoes on the day. And remember to turn off your phone and switch on your five senses.
Start your walk slowly, one step at a time. Take in the tranquillity. Notice the different shapes and shades of green. Press pause. Listen to the leaves rustling harmoniously. Feel your hand pulsating on a random tree trunk. Follow the tip of your nose as it traces the faint floral scent amongst the damp grass.
When you start to feel distracted or tired, take a seat and rest for up to 20 minutes. Then plant your feet back on the ground. Surrender yourself to the gentle pull of gravity once again, and feel the crisp air lifting your spirit. Be present. Be mindful. Acknowledge what forest bathing has to offer, and take it all in.
Find Out More
There are now about 1,500 accredited forest bathing guides worldwide, including Amanda Yik, founder of Shinrin Yoku Hong Kong. To discover more about forest bathing in Hong Kong and where to go, visit here.