Forest Bathing 101: Here's Everything You Need To Know About This Japanese Wellness Practice

If the term "forest bathing" conjures up images of a bath in, well, a forest, that makes sense. Despite what its name suggests, there's technically no bathing involved in forest bathing—but if you want to spend a few luxurious moments in a fresh water stream, its founders would hardly object. 

Also called shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is a Japanese wellness practice that's essentially nature therapy. It has tremendous mental and physical health benefits, and if you haven't tried it yet, you're missing out.

Intrigued? Here's everything you need to know about forest bathing.

Forest bathing is all about soaking up the benefits of nature.

While forest bathing itself is fairly new—it was founded in the 1980s—the concept behind it is as old as time: Nature heals and invigorates us. Studies show that spending time in nature reduces anger, stress, fear, and helps us cope with pain.

Phytoncides, a substance emitted by plants and trees, are also incredibly therapeutic and filled with health benefits. They have antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities that help protect plants, but they also help strengthen the immune system. So any time spent touching or breathing in the scent of the trees and plants around you while forest bathing will add to the benefits you're already experiencing. 

Forest bathing can be done on your own or with a group.

Forest bathing isn't going anywhere, and it's gotten so popular that more people are becoming certified forest bathing guides every year. So yes, it's definitely a community activity—but if you don't have a forest bathing center nearby, don't let that stop you. 

If you want to try forest bathing on your own (and you should!), Forest Bathing author Dr. Qing Lee instructs

"First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in."

In other words, the whole process is pretty simple—so don't overthink it. 

Forest bathing is one of the easier self-care practices out there.

Self-care comes in so many forms: Bubble baths, workouts, long phone calls with friends, free writes, you name it. One of the things we hear the most often from people is that they don't have time for self-care. The great thing about forest bathing is that you don't need an actual forest to do it—you can walk outside on your lunch break and spend a few minutes soaking in any greenery nearby. And if you'd like, you can always journal while forest bathing—as long as all that multi-tasking doesn't take away from the overall vibe of your self-care practice. 

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