As we come to the end of Mental Health Month, we’re taking a look at one of the simplest yet most satisfying ways of achieving a state of wellbeing: immersing oneself in nature. Switch your devices off, head to the nearest woodland ecosystem and let the trees give you a mind massage…
Forest bathing has its origins in Japan where it is known as shinrin-yoku. It is a deceptively simple practice that is all about being present in a forest environment and allowing your senses to fully engage with the sylvan surroundings – the scent and the feel of the trees, the colours of the woodland flowers, the dappled sunlight on your skin, the smell of rich, loamy earth… all of these natural elements come together to create a soothing and rejuvenating experience.
And it’s not just a quaint tradition by any means – the benefits of forest bathing are backed by hard science. Research has shown that spending time in nature, particularly in forests, offers a range of health benefits – most notably reducing stress levels significantly. Removing ourselves from the urban maelstrom and our ever-present digital devices encourages our parasympathetic nervous system to engage and our minds to enter a state of calm. Trees also release compounds known as phytoncides – antimicrobial molecules that can boost our immune systems and reduce anxiety.
The simple act of slowing down and paying attention to the present moment in a beautiful living forest can help bring mental clarity, potentially helping us make better decisions back amongst the madding crowd! And of course, when you’re in a forest, you’re likely to be walking along forest paths – even at a leisurely pace, you’re getting a gentle form of exercise that contributes to your cardiovascular health – especially given you’re breathing in oxygen-rich forest air.
Immersing yourself in the forest ecosystem with its rich range of habitats and medley of flora and fauna gives you an immediate sense of just how interconnected everything is – and that we are a part of nature not apart from it. Which is a wonderful thing to be reminded of in challenging times.
From Bavaria to the Himalayas, Crete to Scotland, Bali to the Isles of Scilly, Karma destinations offer a myriad opportunities for forest bathing. Ask your Karma Concierge or resort reception. Then just head for the trees and just be.