I started writing this article just after my daily ritual of forest bathing. During my stay at my parents’ house, who live just a few walking minutes from a huge forest that stretches for many miles, I used the occasion to again explore the region I once roamed when I was a child.
Back in the days, when we used to play there, I surely wasn’t aware of the influence that the forest had on my mental well-being, and I never thought that I would appreciate this rich environment to this extent. I was spontaneously connected with it—like being one with it.
Forest bathing was something that our ancestors just naturally did, not seeing it as a form of therapy but just a way of living. Today, we use it to recharge our batteries and unwind our minds.
The Urban Jungle vs. Forest Bathing
Why is bathing in the woods prescribed by some doctors as a therapy for reducing stress? Forest bathing researcher explains that “spending time among trees offers a panacea for a range of modern ills, including stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as the power to boost the immune system, decrease anger and even help you sleep better.”((The Japan Times: Stressed out? Bathing in the woods is just what the doctor ordered))
As our daily life became digitalized and we spending more of our time in modern infrastructure in between shopping malls, offices, airplanes, metros, trains, cars, and so on, our connection with the healing energy from the forest diminished.
All of the comfortable but artificial spaces in which we spent most of our time seem to give us a sense of efficiency, safety, and productivity but take away our vitality, versatility, and creativity.
This is where the problem for stress creation begins as well as the trigger for a loss of passion towards what we do. Nonetheless, we began to think that life is to be found more in the midst of industrial cities—that life there is vital and creative—however, it turns out that the velocity of that life is just ill dynamic that breeds more stress and struggle than it creates vitality and creativity.
Therefore, forest bathing is prescribed as a stress reduction therapy to re-establish the connection with the source we basically come from—the forest.
The Idea of Forest Bathing
Physically reconnecting with nature is important, but if the emotional connection to nature—and, in particular, to the forest—is missing, the forest bathing has only a little effect. If you want to benefit maximally from the forest, you need to take it within you; the trees, the smell, the scenery, the humidity, and everything else that goes along with it.
Even when you’re physically not in the forest anymore, the forest is inside of you. Alone, the thought about the trees—being your external lungs—should evoke positive emotions and peacefulness.
We must not forget our roots and must return there (emotionally)—to where our food, our earliest skills, and inventions began. Deep in our spirit, we are “forest dwellers,” and all of our “lower” knowledge about construction, architecture, medicine, gastronomy, craftsmanship, and many other artisan skills have been learned from the woods and in the woods.
The least you can do today, being an urban living being, is renounce just a few metropolitan habits (the ones that are responsible for your distress) and go out to hug an oak, a cedar, or even a birch—to look at a flower and understand the bees and feel the smell of the surrounding trees.
This is the idea of forest bathing. So, get out there and make the connection! In the next section, I’ll give an example of my connection with forest bathing. It simple and you can gain great value out of it by applying it.
Why Is the Forest So Powerful?
Did you know that the birth of the Upanishads—the people that researched the human consciousness and the universal consciousness to an unprecedented extent, creating the concept of meditation—found a place in the big forests of India? Therefore, the name for one of the earliest Upanishad is “Brihadaranyaka Upanishad—the Big Forest.”((Britannica: Hinduism: The Upanishads))
They retreated from civilization and went into the woods to contemplate the essence of life and explore the essence of the human mind. The forest was their temple, their shrine—it gave them stillness and calmness for exploring themselves. It gave them harmony of just being a plain human being, unconditioned by ideologies created by corrupt individuals; it gave them space for opening their minds and look into the vast capacity of consciousness.
Before I started to study the Upanishads, I already have made a connection with the forest and fell in love with the trees. And to this day, I withdraw an enormous amount of energy out of them—their energy flushes all the unnecessary thoughts out of my mind.
I moved to a place which is literally in the forest, and I am surrounded by hundreds of different trees. I can set new goals when I spend time looking at them.
How to Unwind Your Mind With Forest Bathing
I guess you have been many times in the forest, in the mountains, or the groves near your house. If you haven’t felt what proper forest bathing is, the next time you go to the forest, follow these steps:
1. Take a Good Look
Take a good look at the forest before you walk in it. Recognize it as your external lungs and get ready to get physically and biologically in touch with it. Understand that there is a molecular interaction between you and the whole forest. You inhale the oxygen from the trees as they inhale the carbon dioxide you exhale.
At this level, you are one with the forest—you both breathe together. This is the highlight of forest bathing, and it stands higher than your connection with it on a sensory level. However, the smell of the trees, flowers, and weeds, the look at all the marvelous colors that the forest offers and the sound that the trees, the birds, and the bees produce are pure enjoyment for your senses.
2. Smell the Odor of the Forest
As you continue to walk inside of the forest, smell the odor that the forest is spraying throughout its humidity, and deepen your inhalation gradually. Breathe gently, slowly, and deeply, intensifying your sense of smell. Identify, if you can, the different odors that the forest is producing. Enjoy your walk as you breathe deeply, and explore all the different odors. Make it a meaningful and significant experience for you.
3, Sit on a Rock or a Trunk of a Tree
After a while, sit on some bench, rock, or a trunk of a tree. Get in touch with nature, physically—hold a piece of wood, a branch, or a flower in your hand. Just sense how it feels. Touch a leaf or hug a tree—feel their energy. Know that a tree carries a great history within itself—some 350 million years.((Plant Evolution & Paleobotany: Rise of Trees))
4. Have a Look Around
Have a look around you and see all the different colors that the forest displays—the colors of the trees’ trunks, the branches, and the leaves. Enjoy the beautiful scenery which magically changes its colors according to the season of the year.
Finally, listen and hear the different sounds emerging from all parts of the forest, close and distant—the sound of the wind blowing the trees, the sound of the leaves, and the different sounds of the chirping birds. Let the sound of the forest occupy your mind and feel the positive vibration resonating through your whole body, especially in your head.
Bathe in all these sensations by making your connection to nature deeper. Learn to respect nature, and see it as your greatest energy resource. Consciously engrave these sensations and experiences within you, saying to yourself that you won’t forget them even after walking out of the forest.
Promise to yourself that these essential qualities that the forest instilled in you will resonate when you go back to your urban jungle. Take it all with you and carry this energy inside of you-let it grow by consciously taking slow deep breaths. The forest lives inside of you.