Going Out To Go In: The Art of 'Shinrin-Yoku' or 'Forest Bathing'

Going Out To Go In: The Art of 'Shinrin-Yoku' or 'Forest Bathing'

24 07 22 By: MIRROR WATER

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. 

 

By: Eva Lash for MIRROR WATER 

"the Japanese have known for many years that spending mindful time in nature has a multitude of benefits for the mind, body and soul. "

 

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).

 

"the practice of forest bathing itself can be practiced anywhere you envelop yourself in nature. "

 

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. 

 

 

"Green space doesn't need to be huge mountains and rolling valleys, it can be as simple as going to your local park and taking a moment to look up. "

ZANNA VAN DIJK ON GETTING OUT INTO NATURE

Content Creator and Founder of @StayWildSwim, Zanna Van Dijk is no stranger to being outdoors—here's how she mentally recharges by embracing nature.

 

MIRROR WATER:

What does being out in the forest do for your mental health? 

 

ZANNA VAN DIJK:

Being out in the forest is one of the best things I can personally do for my mental health. It gives me space from the chaos of my daily life and the stress of my work. It gives me the opportunity to gain perspective and to realise that the tiny things I am getting so wound up about, are actually much less significant than they seem. If I feel overwhelmed, my go to self-care technique is to get outside.  

 

MIRROR WATER:

how do you transport yourself in nature when you can't escape the city? 

 

ZANNA VAN DIJK:

Green space doesn't need to be huge mountains and rolling valleys, it can be as simple as going to your local park and taking a moment to look up. You will often find me on a park bench in London just enjoying a moment of peace amongst the mayhem.

 

MIRROR WATER:

Best thought you’ve had while out hiking?  

 

ZANNA VAN DIJK:

I find that when I am out hiking alone, that is when I have the best business ideas. I hike in silence, giving myself the opportunity to process my thoughts and come up with new plans. I actually thought up my new business, Thrive Money, when I was out on a trail. I just kept walking and walking and walking, as the concept became more solidified in my head.  

 

 

 

MIRROR WATER:

Do you hike with people/alone? Do you listen to music? 

 

ZANNA VAN DIJK:

Hiking is predominantly a social activity for me, I find the act of walking alongside someone facilitates some of the best conversations. The lack of eye contact means often you can really open up, share your vulnerabilities and go deep. So I typically drag a friend along when I hit the trails. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a solo hike though, and when I do go on one I avoid taking my headphones so I can give my mind space to think and process, free from distractions.

 

MIRROR WATER:

What else do you like to do to relax in nature—we’re going for our first wild swim soon…any tips?  

 

ZANNA VAN DIJK:

Wild swimming is something which naturally slots into my life alongside hiking, I just pop my Stay Wild togs in my backpack and strip off when I see an appealing river or lake. Honestly, there is nothing that connects you to nature quite like a wild swim. You are totally present in the water, taking in your surroundings and connecting with your breath as you pus

 

MIRROR WATER:

What’s your post-forest bathing routine to keep yourself feeling zen?

 

ZANNA VAN DIJK:

My favourite bathing routine (when I have the time!) is a hair mask, a bath and a good book. I will pop the mask in as the water starts running, fill the bath with salts or oils, and then settle down with my latest read. The dream. 
Looking for a self-care moment yourself? Our body care line-up gives you the forest scent with Canadian black spruce in textures that feel like a treat—discover them here.