FREE UK & US SHIPPING £50 / $75+

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.

MIRROR WATER: What’s the biggest misconception about practicing breathwork?

James Dowler: That a functional way to breathe is to breathe deeply by taking big, volumous breaths. As much as we do want to breathe low into our belly and lower ribs, we actually want to be breathing as lightly as possible. This is because the primary stimulus to breathe is your brain perceiving that there is too much CO2 in your body. The bigger the breaths that you take, the more CO2 you blow off and the more sensitive you become to the build up of it - quickening your breathing rate. The quicker your breathing rate, the more the sympathetic (mobilisation) branch of your nervous system is activated and the less settled and relaxed you will tend to feel. As such, we want to breathe as lightly as possible, to increase our tolerance to the build up of CO2 and in doing so slow down our breathing rate - activating the parasympathetic (slowing down) branch of the nervous system.

MIRROR WATER: What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to begin their breathwork journey?

James Dowler: I always recommend listening to guided sessions and sticking to a time each day to practice. I like practicing in the evening before bed to down-regulate my nervous system and move into an optimal state for sleep.

MIRROR WATER: What does downtime look like for you, describe a typical Sunday? Is there anything you do to mentally prepare for the next week?

James Dowler: I moved to Somerset, the English countryside, this time last year. I like to spend as much time outside as possible on Sundays going on long walks with my girlfriend. We’ll often walk to a pub for Sunday lunch and fill ourselves up on delicious roast beef and veggies. I like to wind down with my girlfriend in the evening in front of the fire, sometimes with a series on the tv - we’ve just started watching The Last of Us which we’re really enjoying.

MIRROR WATER: Where can our MIRROR WATER community find you?

James Dowler: The best place to connect with me is on my Instagram, @breathewithjames. I also released my app, Breathe With James, at the end of last year which people will be able to find on the App Store and Google Play if they’re interested in practicing breathwork with me.