By Hana Lee Goldin Picture this: you’re out somewhere in the woods. Maybe you’re with others, or maybe you’re alone. You feel the coolness of the air on your skin, and the chirping of birdsong in the branches; you smell the unmistakable scent of trees. You see at least ten different shades of green all around you, with subtle nuances of light and shadow changing their depth. The taste of fresh air is at once familiar and foreign: comforting, but you don’t even know the last time you tasted fresh air like this. You’re completely dropped into the present, and nothing exists beyond this moment. Perhaps you’ve experienced this before. If this scenario seems recognizable, that means you, my friend, have been forest bathing. Forest bathing has been gaining a lot of attention lately, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s a low-to-no cost therapeutic practice that has healing benefits empirically proven on mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. There’s at least 50 confirmed physical health benefits alone, including lowered blood pressure, lowered cortisol levels, and enhanced immune functioning. It’s also typically accessible and readily available, and the only side effects are good ones. It’s the best antidote to the ills of our modern, hectic, stress-filled lives. And all it asks of us is to step outside. There are two pillars to the practice: sensory awareness and rhythm recalibration, both underscored with intentionality. When we’re forest bathing, we’re not just going for a walk in the woods. We’re deliberately opening our sensory portals to bring us into a state of mindfulness, a noticing of the world around us that creates embodied presence. We’re also slowing our bodies down, dropping the speediness of modern culture to adopt the slow grace of the natural world. Forest bathing isn’t the same as a hike; a hike implies going from point A to point B, with a destination to reach.
When you go forest bathing, the only destination is where you are. It’s getting acquainted with the right here and the right now, and appreciating the beauty right in front of you.
Why go forest bathing with a guide? Can’t you just head outside and take it from there? Well, it’s the same as taking a yoga class. Sure, you can practice yoga at home, but when you take advantage of a service you get to drop into the experience even more fully. The pressure or responsibility of figuring out what to do next is taken off your shoulders, and you can relax and just enjoy the ride. And you may even get suggestions for interactivity that you might not have thought of yourself. If the goal of forest bathing is to step out of your thinking mind and experience the natural world in an embodied way, a guide can help you with exactly that. We all know that spending time in nature is good for us, and now we know exactly why. The science behind nature therapy is fascinating and extensive, and continues to grow every year as more research is poured into this burgeoning health treatment. You can find forest bathing and nature therapy offered everywhere from spas to hospitals to universities, all over the world.
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