What is it and how do we practice?
Forest therapy (sometimes referred to as forest bathing) is a guided immersion into nature that invites you to connect with the environment through all five of your felt senses: touch, hearing, smell, sight and sometimes even taste.
The term “forest bath” is an English translation of a Japanese wellness practice called Shinrin-yoku. Shinrin-yoku can also be translated as “taking in the forest atmosphere.” The practice focuses on the health benefits of interacting with nature with our fully focused attention, and is different from the visual of literally bathing with water in the forest, or rolling in the dirt.
A forest bath offers you the opportunity to slow down and connect deeply with the world around you, in a way that many of us have forgotten since our childhood years of curiosity.
Sound simple and straightforward? In a way, yes it is. But there is extensive science to back up why it is worth your time.
Background and Research
Since the 1980’s, Japanese medical doctors and researchers have investigated tangible evidence to study the effects of nature on our physical and emotional well-being. Measuring heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone levels, and immune system indicators such as white blood cell count and activity – they have a clear goal: to show that this practice improves human health and is supported by science.
They aren’t alone in their research efforts.
There are decades of data from accredited institutions all over the world that corroborates the health benefits of spending time in nature. Across South Korea, Australia, China, the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America, the science is in: going to nature offers far more benefits than we realize. If we realized it, we would spend a LOT more time slowing down in nature!
This knowledge is at the heart of forest bathing.
How Do We Practice?
The practice of Shinrin-yoku emphasizes slowing down our movement and facilitates a sensory experience of the natural world. What does this mean? It means you’ll be guided to call on your senses to connect with your surroundings. You’ll be invited to notice the details of the forest through your sense of touch, sight, smell, hearing and sometimes even taste. You’ll also call on other senses, such as proprioceptive awareness or your ability to feel your body in space, even with your eyes closed.
A forest bath is not a hike or walk in the forest. You don’t have to go far, and you may spend your entire experience within a quarter mile of forest. This means the practice is very accessible to a variety of age groups and physical fitness levels. Forest bathing experiences that are longer than 1.25-hours are often referred to as “forest therapy walks.”
In a guided forest bath or forest therapy walk with In Your Element (IYE), you will be offered “invitations” to interact with nature and view your surroundings in a new way.
During our traditional forest therapy walks, we guide you through a sequence that is internationally recognized and offered by trained forest therapy guides all over the world. This sequence of invitations has been developed to help you engage with your senses, slow down and connect with the world around you.
We also offer less traditional forest therapy walks, in which we take our own spin on the international standard. During these experiences, we bring together the emotional draw of nature with a natural science perspective. Why? We believe that learning a bit about environmental science sparks curiosity, presence with our surroundings, and helps us to see things in a new way. Throughout our specialized forest bathing experiences, you may learn about different ground plants and trees, root systems, health benefits of specific organic compounds, and more.
We make a point to be clear on our Calendar + Booking page if a scheduled forest therapy walk is a traditional walk or a walk that will touch on natural science, but if you have questions about an event, you can always Contact Us.
As humans, we are connected to nature.
We are living breathing organisms, not machines.
At IYE, we are here to help you reignite your connection to the natural world (and boost your well-being in the process).
Join us in the forest to experience the internationally recognized health and wellness benefits of nature, enhance your creativity and inspiration, and make new friends on the way.
We hope to see you soon!
A Sampling of Additional Resources:
Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers (Frontiers in Psychology, 2014.)
Influence of Forest Therapy on Cardiovascular Relaxation in Young Adults (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014)
Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. (Frontiers in Psychology, 2014.)
A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. (Int. Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2017.)
Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function. (Int. Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 2007).
International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine: List of Articles and Books
Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs: Articles and Research Archives