At one with nature: MM tries ‘Forest Bathing’ as a means of escape

Only a few months ago nature gave us a respite to our monotonous lives under strict lockdown.

Our daily walks were a glimpse of freedom in the weeks of isolation and limitation.

But why reserve these walks to times of crises?

In Japan, the process of immersing yourself in nature is considered an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, originated there in the 1980’s and was even incorporated into the national health programme. 

Forest bathing is not just any old walk through the forest, but a mindful, almost meditative experience.

There are a few key rules: walk slowly, breathe deeply, and use all the senses to absorb your natural surroundings. Oh, and leave your phone behind, you won’t need it.

While it may sound like a hippie fad, the power of nature should not be discredited. Studies by the Society for Forest Medicine found that the practice can lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, and help with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

After a week stuck mostly indoors, I headed into the woods and tried forest bathing for the first time.

As someone who is chronically late, the slow pace felt unnatural at first. For once I was not rushing to reach the next destination; in fact, there was no destination at all.

I took in deep breaths as I moved through the trees and soaked in the sights of the forest.

Bright reds, burnt oranges and golden yellows glowed from branches and a slow drizzle of rain began to fall.

The sounds of birdsong and rain hitting the leaves were an insomniac’s dream, sounding like it had come straight from the Calm app.

Forest bathing gave me a chance to slow down, truly appreciate my surroundings and fully immerse myself in the experience.

I left the woods feeling invigorated, having connected with nature in a way that I never had before.

It’s no surprise to me that this practice has so many health benefits. In a world that moves faster all the time, we need to embrace these opportunities to slow down and take it all in.

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