April is when the weather starts being nice enough, often enough, to go outside and soak in some sunshine and happiness. The idea of nature bathing comes from a Japanese concept called shinrin-yoku which can be translated to “forest bathing.” and refers to mindfully taking in the clean air and energy of a natural space, ideally one with plenty of treens and green.
The science behind a nature bath is unexpected and surprising. Trees release different compounds called phytoncides which have positive effects on blood pressure, stress, and the immune system. Some trees also release D-limonene, which may decrease inflammation.
Nature bathing isn’t exercise. Instead, it’s more like meditation. To take a nature bath, find a quiet park or trail, leave your tech at home or in the car, and stroll where 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 by taking slow deliberate breaths. 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.
After being cooped up for what felt like years during the winter of 2020, our family finally went on our first RV trip of the year to a state park with a lake and lots of trees. While the kiddos were busying themselves digging holes on the shore of the lake, I sat on the bench at our campsite and soaked in the surroundings. Was it a perfect spot for nature bathing? Probably not. There was plenty of noise and traffic in the campsite due to Spring Break.
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.
For that short time, I sat back and relaxed as I took in the budding trees, the gentle ripples on the lake, and the play of light dancing across the ground. It was lovely. This week, I’m bringing that calm with me to help combat whatever stressful situations pop up.
If you go forest bathing, I’d love to hear your experience with it. Share in the comments below.