The healing power of forest bathing
The healing power of forest bathing
Ten years ago I had a burnout. I was stuck in a job I did not like, had many financial and legal challenges in my private life and was in a relationship that was not good for me, as it turned out later. I remember crying every evening and feeling trapped in a life that did not feel good at all.
My doctor advised me to do fun things
I had no idea how to do that. I did not know what I liked. I could not come up with one single thing. I felt empty.
At a certain point I felt little nudges to have a walk, and the day after again “go outside”. I started to notice this one thing that always made me feel better: Nature. I lived in a wooded area in the Netherlands so luckily I had the forest at my doorstep. I tried to take a walk in nature every day and I really started to enjoy it. Even if I walked in the same area, it always looked different. Depending on the weather, season, my mood, or simply the light, I grew very fond of being in nature and it had such a soothing effect on me and my emotions. And when I came home after a walk I would feel like a different, happier person.
Be in nature
During my walks, I would not worry about speed or length or anything. The aim was to simply be in nature and absorb the tranquillity. In nature, I could be completely myself. The trees did not judge how I looked, the birds would sing their songs whether I felt depressed or not, the wind would blow my sorrows away, the rain would purify my emotions …
Later I discovered there is a Japanese word for this practice: Shinrin Yoku, forest bathing.
When I came across this word and learned more about this practice I had to laugh a bit. It is so obvious that surrounding yourself with nature is beneficial. And it was written about in a ladies magazine as it was the discovery of the century. But reflecting a bit more it began to make more sense.
The artificiality of modern life
Many people live in cities surrounded by concrete and asphalt. During daylight, you go from your stone house to your concrete office building and back. When the sun shines the shutters are closed and the airco blows cold air. And whether it is a bright day or dark outside, there will always be this artificial light shining in the office building.
Or perhaps you work from home and do not leave your house all day. In wintertime in northern Europe, you do not see daylight at all as your start working in the morning when it is still dark until the end of the afternoon when the sun sets already. A large part of the day is spent on screens, computers, tablets, mobile phones. It is no wonder why so many people feel stressed and disconnected. Like I did in 2011.
So what is Shinrin yoku, forest bathing?
Shinrin means “forest” in Japanese, and yoku means “bath.” So Shinrin Yoku means forest bathing or taking in the forest and atmosphere through our senses. This Japanese therapy was developed in the 1980s and became an important healing method in preventive health care.
Experience nature, slowly with your senses
Shinrin yoku is about being in nature and taking it in with your senses. You take the time to listen to the sounds of the birds, the blowing of the wind, you look around and see the trees, the colour of their leaves. I always like to look up and see the immense height of the trees and how the leaves spread across the sky, to look far to feel the immensity and close by to take in the details. You can smell the fragrances around you, freshly mown grass, composting leaves on the ground, the perfume of the flowers nearby.
You can also touch your surroundings with your hands, feel the bark of the tree, the structure of the leaves, or simply lean against a tree and imagine that your sorrows and stress are being transported into the soil and the energy and inspiration come from the top of the tree to fill your system with positive energy. And the most important part is this: just be. No hurry. Just be present in the here and now.
This is also why they call it forest bathing. You immerse yourself in nature and become one with it. And afterwards, you feel fresh and new again.
Fast forward to Tenerife in 2021
Fast forward to 2021, I now live in Tenerife under the sun and near the mountains with wonderful, green laurel and pine tree forests. Now I do not wait anymore to feel disconnected and empty to visit nature. I go to the city park daily and at least once a week into the mountain forest to recharge my batteries. Sometimes it is a short hike, sometimes a long one. Sometimes I truly practice forest bathing and take it very slowly, sometimes I do a more active hike. I always take pictures because it helps me to connect with the moment. For some people, the phone or camera is a distraction so in that case, it is better to leave it home. in my case, I see the beauty of nature and capture it with my eyes and my camera. This allows me to appreciate it even more.
What about you?
What is your experience? Do you often go to intentionally connect with nature? How do you feel before you go? And how do you feel afterwards? Leave a comment below.
About the author of this blog post
Hi my name is Mirjam Overbeek, a Dutch Authenticity Coach living on Tenerife.
I love helping women to reconnect with themselves and their dreams, stop living up to expectations of others and have the courage to pave their own unique path. I believe it makes the world a better place when we follow our heart. I offer 1-on-1 coaching via Skype & Zoom and retreats on Tenerife.
Want to see what I can do for you? Schedule a free Clarity Call with me. It will give you instant clarity in the area of your life where you feel stuck right now.