Late spring is when the weather starts being nice enough, often enough, to go outside and soak up some sunshine and happiness. The idea of nature bathing comes from a Japanese concept called shinrin-yoku which can be translated to “forest bathing.” The idea behind it is that by spending time in nature, ideally a place with plenty of trees and green growing things, you are “washing away” the negative effects of time spent in front of screens and inside stuffy buildings.
The science behind a nature bath is more, well, scientific than you’d think. Green things, trees especially, release compounds called phytoncides which have been shown to have positive effects on blood pressure, stress, and the immune system. Some trees also release D-limonene, which may decrease inflammation.
How to take a nature bath
While taking a brisk walk in the woods is great for the heart and muscles – it’s not nature bathing. Instead, nature bathing is more like meditation. To take a nature bath, find a quiet park, wooded area, or trail, leave your tech at home or in the car, and stroll where ever your mind and body lead you. Take your time and pay attention to all of your senses. What can you smell? How does the air feel on your skin? What sounds can you hear? What are the textures of the leaves and bark?
During this time, be intentional with your breathing. Take slow deliberate breaths and let those phytoncides work their magic. If you want, sit and soak in the surroundings and let your mind be at peace. Should you do this activity as a family or with friends, save the talking for after the experience.
Perfection isn’t the goal
Nature bathing doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective. In fact, if you can find stillness in yourself even when there’s plenty going on around you, you are that much ahead.
Just last weekend, my family took our trusty RV up to a state park with a lovely river and towering cottonwood trees. While it wasn’t a perfectly isolated woodland space, it was green and new, and that made it a great place to nature bathe. I set out my trusty camp chair and leaned back so I could watch the dance of the leaves above me and how the light shimmered through to the grass below.
For a short time, I was able to sit back and relax and simply breathe. At home there are always chores to do, so being away gives me a break from all of that. As I dive back into a week full of all sorts of busyness, I’m bringing that calm with me to help combat whatever stressful situations pop up.
Discussion question: What’s a lovely nature space that you find yourself going back to?