Hands up who amongst us has had a forest bath? And now, keep your hands up if your bath did NOT involve water and/ or nudity! In fact, ‘Forest bathing’ is an increasingly popular recreational activity.
The term (as we apply it today) originated in Japan in the 1980’s as a way to cope with the rising stresses brought about by overwork. In essence, it is all about being present and still in a forested setting - no water required! The aim is to connect to nature, to awaken and invigorate the senses. Of course, this practice is something our ancestors and Indigenous people would have done in their everyday lives without slapping a label on it, but the modern corporate world does not lend itself so easily to spending time with grass beneath your feet and leaves rustling over head.
From its origins in Japan, the trend has spread rapidly through Europe and the US. Today, the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy has enthusiastically introduced it in some form in most countries, and it is now being adapted to the Australian environment. Bush bathing anyone?
Inspired by the Shinto reverence for nature, significant research has been ploughed into considering the measurable health benefits of this time amongst trees. Mass death by overwork is something global governments do not particularly want on their resume.
The results of these studies sang as loud as Maria on her mountain. Forest bathing has been proven to significantly reduce blood pressure and stress levels, as well as have cardiac and pulmonary benefits.
And the best part is just about anyone, young or old, fit or not, can take part. It’s as simple as having an open mind, finding a suitable place that’s pleasant to walk through, has places to sit, and ideally has different aspects for contemplation. You take notice of the place you are in and consciously tune into your senses. Then it’s slow stroll, noticing the things in the forest that might normally be overlooked. Listen. Sit. Observe. Breathe.
Guided walks with accredited Forest bathing professionals may delve deeper and take you through a number of rituals, all designed to increase immersion in the experience. These walks in the park lower disease risk, improve mental health and prolong life.
Chances are, if you are sitting in an office in a city all day everyday, this concept appears as one of two things - either completely bonkers and so far removed from your normality that you cannot possibly imagine yourself taking part, or perhaps as the most appealing ‘switch off and relax’ that you are googling the closest national park and trying to remember where your camp chair is stored.
As a family that moved from city to country, we have experienced first hand the contrast between the concrete jungle and the natural wonderland, and have truly learned more about nature in the past year than we had in our whole lives before it. With our green cathedral and its mountain backdrop we can see that ‘Bush Bathing’ will be a hugely popular recreational activity for our guests. We will go and order the hammocks now, just to test it out. 😁