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While some of us city-dwellers only understood the importance of getting outdoors when we were abruptly trapped inside in 2020, the Japanese have known for many years that spending mindful time in nature has a multitude of benefits for the mind, body and soul.

The Japanese term ‘Shinrin-yoku’, translated to ‘forest bathing’ or ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’, originated in the 1980s and describes any form of consciously immersing oneself in nature using all five senses.

Forest bathing is a form of ‘social prescribing’; that is prescribing sports and other activities instead of drugs or traditional treatments, to aid in patient recovery or act as preventative treatment. Nature therapy aims to decrease the stressed state at which the body enters treatment by using the restorative effects of natural surroundings. This has been seen to lower blood pressure, decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boost immune function (Hansen et al., 2017).

While shinrin-yoku was founded in the beautiful Akasawa forest of Nagano, densely populated with 300-year-old Japanese cypress trees and slow running clear streams, the practice of forest bathing itself can be practiced anywhere you envelop yourself in nature.

How to get started:

Pick a quieter time of day. If possible, try to schedule picking a time when the woods are likely to be empty. Being alone increases your chances of being able to disconnect with the external world and concentrate on what’s going on internally.

Turn off your devices. Get rid of those notification alerts and bright blue light. This time is for yourself, be confident in allowing yourself the space to be alone with nature.

Slow down. Move through your surroundings slowly, taking notice of elements you may typically miss.

Use all your senses. Focus on each of your senses in turn. Why not try the practice of ‘earthing’ while you’re at it?

Deep breathing. If you struggle to practice deep breathing, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Breath in through your nose for 4, hold for 7 and breath out through your mouth for 8. This technique can help reduce activation of the sympathetic nervous system and switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called the ‘rest and digest’ system. In doing so, you are signalling to your body that you are safe. With safety insured, your heart rate can slow, and internal healing can begin.

The practice of forest bathing has been scientifically proven to improve your overall mental well-being, reduce stress, and promote physical health. With its easy-to-follow methods and universally accessible practice, shinrin-yoku is undoubtedly a beautiful way to connect deeply with nature while simultaneously working towards a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Unlock the health and well-being benefits of shinrin-yoku by experiencing it yourself. Whether you are a city-dweller looking for a way to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life or someone who already loves the great outdoors, consider exploring one of our guided forest bathing experiences near you.

MIRROR WATER: Can you tell us more about the Venus retrograde that’s just ended? 

Alice Bell: Venus has been retrograde since July 22nd. It happens for 40 days, and it only occurs every year and a half, so it's more major when it happens. While Mercury is all about communication, Venus is all about relationships, personal style, creativity, and finances, so those areas of your life are up for inspection during a Venus retrograde. This is why you may have heard of huge celebrity breakups happening. It meant people going through relationship changes, but it doesn't necessarily have to be bad.

Lately, researching your full chart – rather than just sun – has become more popular.
Is it possible to relate more to your moon or rising signs? 

Alice Bell: The qualities associated with rising and moon signs tend to come a little bit more easily to you – moon signs embody early childhood habits, which is how you emotionally react to things without thinking, whereas the sun is the identity you're growing into over the course of your lifetime. That can sometimes feel uncomfortable because it's challenging to learn and grow and improve and work towards developing those sun sign traits more, which is why when you're younger, you might not feel as much like your sun sign. 

MIRROR WATER: What advice would you give to someone who’s learning about astrology for the first time? Is Co-Star okay to look into? Or what about magazine-style horoscopes? 

Alice Bell: I'm not a fan of Co-Star, but the app Chani is great for seeing your circular chart pulled up – like what planets are in what houses. I also love and – those are my favourites for entering in your birth information. Then also my book, because the first section of it is like, “This is what your birth chart is, these are the signs, these are the planets.”

MIRROR WATER: What do you think are any misconceptions about astrology or horoscopes? 

Alice Bell: I would say a big one is people saying: “Oh, my horoscope doesn't make sense, so astrology is not accurate.” Everyone that has the same sign is not gonna have the same week, it’s more complex than that. First off, you should be reading horoscopes for your rising sign, not your sun sign, because the way they're written is, “I'm bringing the sign I'm talking about to the first house,” so it's the rising of the chart. Then I'm seeing where the planets are in the sky this week, and if you look at the rising, that's the same as if you were to go to an astrologer. I would tell you: “These are the transits happening, and this is what to watch out for moving forward.”

Follow Alice Bell here, and shop her book Trust Your Timing here.
Meanwhile, find out what’s going on astrologically this week here.