Head Into the Forest
BY DEBBIE KRUENEGEL-FARR, PH.D.
Want a pick-me-up? Head into the forest! We all have our favorite, feel-good places and spaces, but recent research is showing benefits from making the forest one of them. It’s called forest bathing and it’s exactly as it sounds – physically, emotionally, and spiritually bathing in all that trees have to offer.
Forest bathing originated in Japan under the name shinrin-joku and has spread quickly in the United States. In fact, there is an entire organization that assists in many aspects of nature therapy, including forest bathing:
How do you do it? You’ve probably done it before as forest bathing includes a slow, deliberative stroll in the trees (it doesn’t have to be a huge forest). It’s often connected with being mindful or meditating, as it is done in silence.
Why do it? Being in the woods can help you breathe better, think better, and feel better. Did you know trees give off organic compounds that help us fight off cancer? It can also:
- Boost your immune system
- Reduce blood pressure
- Improve mood & focus
- Aid in the healing process
- Increase your energy level & sense of well-being
- Improve sleep
It’s restorative, a stress-reliever, and a way to connect with the natural environment in a more personal way. We protect what we love – the more we enjoy & love our forests, the more we will protect them, which in turn protects us – it’s a win-win!
This is also a great way to personally reconnect with past experiences too. I remember camping with my family as I was growing up & walking the trails with my sons & husband. As we age, reminiscing on positive events in our lives helps us relive them and helps tell our life story, all aiding our well-being.
Take a grandchild with you!
Doing this together is a great way to bond & help them de-stress & learn to love the forest too. It’s also helpful for those with ADHD and anxiety. Try this:
Step 1: shake it off – close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Physically shake off any thoughts or feelings you need to let go.
Step 2: gratitude – look around you, stopping to analyze the smallest of small things and the biggest of big things. Say a silent word of gratitude to the rock or leaf or branch or tree.
Step 3: keen awareness – focus on motion and sounds around you. See the forest through the eyes of a fox, a bird, or a snake. Make mental note of what you’ve never taken the time to notice before.
Step 4: close your eyes – notice your heightened awareness of sounds and smells. Take a few more deep breaths.
Step 5: wander with a sense of savoring, awe, & peace. Continue your sense of gratitude & awareness, taking it all in.
Step 6: talk about it with your grandchild. How did it make you feel? What did you notice? What was your favorite part? There is no one right answer or feeling but sharing this with them can be a wonderful experience for both of you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – DEBBIE KRUENEGEL-FARR, PH.D.
Adjunct Faculty – Psychology Department, New England College, Henniker, NH . Debbie teaches at New England College (NH) and owns her own company, Flourishing Families , working as a coach, consultant, and parent educator. Debbie has three children and two grandchildren.