Shinrin-yoku: forest bathing

Tree-huggers and leaf lovers, come this way…

After a week of house arrest due to the snow, then frantic work days catching up after the snow, plus too much talking, eating, drinking, thinking and social-media-ing I decided that the best and quickest way to feed my soul and enter recovery mode was a good solid walk in the woods .

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The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku, which means ‘forest bathing’ and I can’t think of a better way to describe the act of putting on a pair of boots and walking alone amongst trees, fields and birdsong.  It’s been a thing in Japan since the 80s and its aim is to encourage a healthier lifestyle by taking walks in specially designated forests.  Forest bathing is not just about relaxation, although that’s a big part of it; studies have been done by Japanese scientists which show it can improve your physical health by boosting immune systems, reducing stress hormones, enhancing mental wellness and brain health. It might even blood glucose levels among diabetes sufferers.

I can certainly report it’s good for my soul as well as my health.  I always find something  in the woods to make me smile – today it was a flock of geese which passed so low overhead I could hear their wings beating.  And I also spotted lots of little chewed cones and nut remnants lying on the path which made me look up and wonder if there had been a little squirrel feast overhead.

I’m now wishing I had taken a photo of these…but then part of the joy of forest bathing is sometimes stopping to take photos, and sometimes simply enjoying the moment and not viewing it through a lens.

So I walked, breathed, greeted a couple of friendly dog walkers, and felt the sun on my back – it was wonderful.  I am extremely fortunate to have a number of woods just a short distance from home – I can leave my doorstep and walk to one of three woods within 5 minutes and if I ever got bored of these I could jump in the car and drive north to Big Tree Country in Perthshire, where there are some fantastic forests and woods to walk in.

However I do have a growing desire to visit Japan for some authentic forest-bathing.  I’ve been fascinated by the country and its culture for a long time and the more I read about it, the more I want to experience it for myself.  The Japanese relax by gazing at trees, lying on logs and breathing in forest smells.  Not to mention their cherry blossom festivals, zen gardens and moss meditation… for a garden-loving introvert it sounds like heaven!

For now though I will grab any opportunity I can to gaze at a Scots pine or my own (not-so-zen) garden.  Now the snow is melting the signs of Spring are showing up again at last.

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