Forest Bathing – A Unique Way to Boost Your Health in Your 60s and Beyond


Hiking in the woods isn’t just a great way to stay fit.
It can also help your emotional and mental health. While just spending some
time out in nature can be great for you, you can go a step further and practice
the Shinrin-Yoku – the Japanese forest
bathing therapy.

Don’t write it off as some woo-woo science. It was
developed in the 1980s by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and
Fisheries and since then there have been multiple studies citing the health and
wellness benefits of the practice.

The best part is that you don’t need a ton of time or
money to get into forest bathing.

As the name suggests, this therapy is focused on
getting out in nature. There’s no ‘goal’ for Shinrin-Yoku. Unlike hiking where
you try to reach the summit, the point of forest bathing is to slow down and
practice mindfulness while under the forest canopy.

It’s not just about enjoying nature, though. It’s also
about using all five senses to experience the world around you.

When choosing a location for this nature therapy,
avoid anything that might seem too strenuous. After all, the whole point is to
practice mindfulness, which is hard to do when you’re struggling to climb a
mountain.

Find a location that has well maintained paths with
gentle inclines and declines that is close to your current location. Forest
bathing is not a one-time activity. You should repeat it at least once a week.

The whole point of forest bathing is to reconnect with
nature, so you should avoid bringing too much stuff. With that said, there are
a few things you should bring:

  • If you usually need a cane to get around, you might want to consider getting a pair of walking poles for better stability on dirt and gravel paths; 
  • A water bottle;
  • Good shoes – you might not be trekking for miles, but you’ll still want to wear comfortable shoes that provide the necessary support; 
  • Sunscreen;
  • Bug spray.

You don’t need to spend hours a day in the forest or
park. In fact, you can reap the benefits of forest bathing in as little as 15
minutes. With that said, for best results, you’ll want to set aside an hour or
two. 

For first time forest bathers, you should check the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy resources to see if there are any programs in your area you can join.

The people guiding these walks are certified and are
great for beginners as they can provide guidance on the trails and can direct
your attention to points of observation.

If there isn’t a program near you, you can always get
started on your own by following this simple guide:

No Phone

Avoid bringing your phone
with you. If you must bring it, avoid using it unless there’s an emergency. It
might be tempting to take it out for a picture, but avoid your instinct to do
so and instead just enjoy the beauty of nature.

Use Your Senses

Stop often to take in the
entirety of the forest. This means looking around at your surroundings and
observing the sights, sounds, and smells. Make note of certain smells you
prefer.

Don’t Meddle with Nature

You also want to ensure
you leave the forest in the same state as when you arrived.

Explore while Staying on the Trail

Let your body be your
guide and allow it to lead you on your path, to an extent. Make sure you’re
still on a trail, especially if you’re in a national park!

Take Your Time

Move slowly and quietly.
Try to mirror the rhythm of the forest.

Watch Your Breathing

Focus on your breathing
while you’re walking, and match it up with your steps.

Adopt a Concluding Ritual

Conclude your session with
a ceremonial activity, whether that’s drinking tea, writing your thoughts,
feelings, etc. in a journal or, if you’re forest bathing with others, conduct a
light conversation about the experience. The point is to slowly reintegrate
back into the rhythm of your daily life rather than jump back in. 

Forest bathing isn’t just about enjoying
nature. It also has numerous health benefits that everyone can enjoy regardless
of age such as:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Lowered cortisol levels
  • Improved concentration and memory
  • Improved immune system
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved mood

Of course, let’s not disregard the intangible benefits
such as a deeper appreciation for nature, an overall increased sense of
happiness and, if you forest bathe with other people, deeper friendships.

In today’s connected world, it’s all too easy to fall
into a frenetic pace where you’re always on the move. That’s why it’s important
to take some time out of your day to slow down and enjoy the world around you.

What do you know about forest bathing? Have you
practiced it before? Is it something that you will add to your weekly routine?
Let’s discuss more about the topic in the comments below!



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