What is it, and how can I give it a try?
What is forest bathing?
Forest bathing is a Japanese practice of relaxation, known in Japan as shinrin-yoku. The term was coined in the 1980s, to describe the activity of spending time in a forest. Forest bathing is the method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees and immersing yourself in the sensory experience. It uses mindfulness and meditation techniques to allow you to open your senses to the natural world. Anyone can try forest bathing. It does not involve exercise; it is simply being in nature and connecting to the surroundings.
Benefits of Forest Bathing?
Studies on forest bathing have demonstrated benefits to both physical and mental health. Practising forest bathing has positive effects on the cardiovascular, immune and respiratory systems, as well as improving mood and concentration and lowering blood pressure and stress levels.
Forest bathing has positive effects for those with chronic health conditions, including chronic heart failure, chronic neck pain and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It has also been found to reduce levels of anxiety and depression. Forest bathing has also been recommended in the treatment of addiction.
Forest bathing and occupational therapy
Occupational therapy helps people to live their best life, through supporting people whose circumstances make it difficult to take part in activities that are important to them. When people are able to do the activities that matter to them, there are positive effects on the person’s health and wellbeing. For many people, being outdoors and surrounding themselves with nature is an activity that holds great importance, and is therefore, a meaningful activity for them. Many occupational therapists are interested in nature and the natural environment due to the therapeutic benefit provided from spending time in these spaces. Research shows that simply being in and observing nature can have therapeutic and physiological benefits. Could forest bathing be a meaningful activity for you?
Give it a go
Access the Dales has created a guide for forest bathing as a beginner. You don’t need to have any experience. Simply print off a leaflet to take with you. Why not get the next generation involved with a leaflet designed for children?
You can forest bathe anywhere where there are trees, in hot or cold weather, in rain or sunshine. You don’t even need a forest. Wherever there are trees, such as a local park or even your garden, forest bathing is possible.
Guide for adults
Forest Bathing guide for adults
Download PDF • 4.04MB
Guide for children
Forest Bathing guide for children
Download PDF • 1.14MB
Always pay attention to your surroundings, stay on marked trails, and wear appropriate clothing. Remember to consider things like sun protection and allergies. When possible, bring a friend or let someone know where you’re going and for how long.
Woodland in the Yorkshire Dales
Whilst the Yorkshire Dales is only made up of 4% woodland, there are still plenty of places where you can go to give forest bathing a try.
The following woods are wheelchair accessible:
Freeholders Wood Local Nature Reserve (Path is compact aggregate. All gates are accessible)
Strid Wood, Wharfedale
(Path is a mixture of compacted earth and gravel)
(Path is level access and firm)
The following woods are NOT wheelchair accessible:
Grass Wood, Grassington
Hackfall Woods, Grewelthorpe
Whilst these areas have been suggested, you can practice forest bathing anywhere there are trees!
Forest bathing without a forest
Whilst there are thousands of locations around the country where you can forest bathe, some people may not be able to access these areas. If you can’t get to the forest, bring the forest to you. Be transported to the forest and immerse yourself in the woodland experience. There are many online videos that provide an indoor forest experience; search for ‘immersive forest’. Viewing virtual nature has many health benefits, including improving mood, cognition and stress recovery.
If you have enjoyed finding out about Forest Bathing, find some trees and give it a go!
Ursula Mallender MSc Occupational Therapy Student Sheffield Hallam University
The following sources have been consulted to create this blog:
Forest Bathing Holidays
Goodman, V., Wardrope, B., Myers, S., Cohen, S., McCorquodale, L., & Kinsella, E. A. (2019). Mindfulness and human occupation: A scoping review. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 26(3), 157-170.
Jia, B. B., Yang, Z. X., Mao, G. X., Lyu, Y. D., Wen, X. L., Xu, W. H., ... & Wang, G. F. (2016). Health effect of forest bathing trip on elderly patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 29(3), 212-218.
Kang, B., Kim, T., Kim, M. J., Lee, K. H., Choi, S., Lee, D. H., ... & Park, S. B. (2015). Relief of chronic posterior neck pain depending on the type of forest therapy: comparison of the therapeutic effect of forest bathing alone versus forest bathing with exercise. Annals of rehabilitation medicine, 39(6), 957-963.
Kotera, Y., & Rhodes, C. (2020). Commentary: Suggesting Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) for treating addiction. Addictive Behaviors, 111, 106556.
Mao, G., Cao, Y., Wang, B., Wang, S., Chen, Z., Wang, J., ... & Yan, J. (2017). The salutary influence of forest bathing on elderly patients with chronic heart failure. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(4), 368.
Miyazaki, Y. (2018). Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese art of forest bathing. Timber Press.
The Royal College of Occupational Therapists
Wen, Y., Yan, Q., Pan, Y., Gu, X., & Liu, Y. (2019). Medical empirical research on forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku): A systematic review. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 24(1), 1-21.