Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a practice of mindfully immersing yourself in forests, to nourish your physical and mental health. It started in Japan in the 1980s as a way to combat stress and reconnect with the natural environment¹³.
Since then, it has gained popularity around the world as a form of ecotherapy that can help you relax, rejuvenate and restore your balance.
How does forest bathing work?
Forest bathing is not just a walk in the woods. It is a conscious and intentional way of engaging with nature using all your senses. You can do it alone or with a guide who can help you focus your attention and deepen your awareness. The idea is to slow down, breathe deeply and notice the sights, sounds, smells, textures and feelings of the forest. You can also touch, taste or hug the trees, and sit quietly beneath their canopies to feel the effect.
By doing these things you connect directly to the natural world and it has positive effects on your body and mind. For example, trees release phytoncides, which are aromatic compounds that can boost your immune system and lower your blood pressure¹². The fresh air, sunlight, greenery and sounds of nature can also reduce your stress hormones, activate your parasympathetic nervous system and improve your mood²⁴. Forest bathing can also help you reconnect with yourself, other people and the wonder of trees which creates a sense of awe, gratitude and harmony.
What are the benefits of forest bathing?
Forest bathing has various benefits for your health and well-being. Some of them are:
– Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
– Improved mood and self-esteem
– Enhanced cognitive function and creativity
– Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
– Increased energy and vitality
– Strengthened immune system and reduced inflammation
– Improved sleep quality and duration
– Enhanced social skills and empathy
Forest bathing can also help you manage the stress associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, persistent pain, obesity and cardiovascular diseases²⁴.
Where in South Africa can you go forest bathing?
South Africa is blessed with diverse and beautiful natural landscapes that offer plenty of opportunities for forest bathing. Whether you prefer a misty cloud forest, a lush rainforest, a coastal woodland or a savanna bushveld, you can find a place that suits your preferences and needs. Here are some examples of where you can go forest bathing in South Africa:
– Knysna Forest: This is one of the largest indigenous forests in South Africa, home to ancient trees, diverse wildlife and scenic trails. You can join guided forest walks or explore on your own⁵.
– Hogsback: This is a magical mountain village surrounded by forests, waterfalls and gardens. You can enjoy the tranquility and beauty of nature while staying in cozy cottages or campsites⁵.
– Platbos Forest: This is an ancient forest that grows on sandy soil near the coast. It is a unique ecosystem that supports rare plants and animals. You can join guided forest walks or stay overnight in tree houses⁵.
– Marakele National Park: This is a park that combines mountains, valleys, rivers and forests. It is part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve and hosts a variety of flora and fauna. You can go on game drives, hiking trails or camping trips⁵.
– Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: This is a world-renowned garden that showcases the diversity and beauty of South African plants. It has various sections that represent different habitats, such as fynbos, forest and wetland. You can walk along the treetop canopy walkway or join guided tours⁵.
Healing Forest: This is a website that offers information, resources and stories about forest therapy around the world. You can also find online courses, events and guides near you.
Forest Bathing International: This is an organization that promotes forest therapy as a global movement. You can find research articles, podcasts, videos and blogs about forest bathing.
Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li: This is a book written by a leading expert and researcher on forest medicine. It explains the science and practice of forest bathing and how it can improve your health and happiness.
The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World by Julia Plevin: This is a book written by a forest therapy guide and founder of the Forest Bathing Club. It offers practical tips, exercises and rituals to help you connect with nature and yourself.
Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You by Sarah Ivens: This is a book written by a certified forest therapy guide and journalist. It provides seasonal suggestions, activities and recipes to help you enjoy the benefits of nature throughout the year.
Forest bathing is a natural and effective way to boost your health and well-being. It originated in Japan but has spread around the world as a form of ecotherapy that can help you relax, rejuvenate and restore your balance. You can practice forest bathing anywhere there is nature, especially in forests, using all your senses to immerse yourself in the environment. You can also join guided walks or read books to learn more about forest bathing. South Africa has many places where you can go forest bathing, from ancient forests to botanical gardens. Forest bathing can help you reduce stress, improve mood, enhance cognition, lower blood pressure, strengthen immunity, improve sleep, increase empathy and more. Forest bathing is a simple and powerful way to reconnect with nature and yourself.
(1) Forest bathing: what it is and where to do it – National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/forest-bathing-nature-walk-health
(2) The Origin of Forest Bathing & Forest Therapy.
(3) Forest Bathing: The History Behind This Self-Care Practice – Gardenia Group. https://www.gardeniagroup.org/2021/05/08/forest-bathing-the-history-behind-this-self-care-practice/
(4) What is forest bathing? | Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/forest-bathing
(5) Forest or Nature Bathing: Ancient Practices, Modern Uses, and the …. https://www.bluezones.com/2019/06/forest-or-nature-bathing-ancient-practices-modern-uses-and-the-science-of-relaxation/