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See You in the Forest!

Have you ever noticed how you feel a bit more clear-headed after a walk in the countryside? Or perhaps you’re a city-dweller feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of life around you? Whether you’ve experienced the benefits of basking in nature or not, ‘forest bathing’ is an activity that should be pencilled in regularly on your calendar.

The term may be something you’ve come across before in magazines, or on wellbeing websites, yet ‘forest bathing’ is something that isn’t well known enough, particularly as there's scientific evidence to back its efficacy. On a personal level, as someone who has battled anxiety, getting out into nature is something which has always been my go-to activity when I’m feeling a bit 'on edge'. The more secluded and wild the better!

So what is forest bathing and where does it come from? According to National Geographic, ‘the term emerged in Japan in the 1980’s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku’ (National Geographic, 2019). However, there’s no doubt that people were using nature as a way to decompress before this time.

To ‘bathe’ within the forest simply means to absorb the natural atmosphere. You may be content to take a walk through a woodland, appreciating the colours and sights, or you may decide to stop now and again to listen to the sounds and really tune in to your senses.

My own preference is a combination; an energetic walk to burn off any adrenaline, interspersed with ‘appreciation stops’, where I close my eyes, breathe in, and try to identify and label the scents I can smell (‘earthy’ ‘fresh’). Finally, I focus on the sounds around me. There’s something almost relieving to hear only the sounds of the natural world. We grow so accustomed to the invading noises of background TV, the hum of the fridge, the distant revving of a car, that when our ears are met with only the sounds of the wind in the trees, the chattering of birds, or the bubble of a stream, it can feel like a sigh of relief.

Research into the effects of forest bathing has provided us with evidence that being in nature genuinely does improve our wellbeing. An article published in ‘Biomedical and Environmental Sciences’ described the findings of Mao and colleagues who conducted a trial involving 20 male students who were divided into two groups. One group would be spending 2 nights in a forest and the other in a city. Blood tests post-trial showed that those who were sent to the forest ‘showed reduced oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory level’ as well as them having ‘lower scored in the negative subscales and the score for vigor was increased’ (Mao et al. 2012).

The above is just one example of research that has informed us of the benefits of spending time in nature. Mental health charities, such as Mind, are advocating approaches that include getting out into nature to improve the wellbeing of those experiencing mental health difficulties, mentioning the benefit to those with seasonal affective disorder, depression, anxiety, and providing case studies of those who have embraced incorporating the outdoors into their selfcare plan.

To find out more and start incorporating forest bathing into your routine, take a look at the links below:

Mind – ‘Nature and Mental Health’ LINK – ‘The Positive Effects of Nature on your Mental Wellbeing' LINK

Woodland Trust – ‘Find a Wood’ LINK

See you in the forest!

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Fitzgerald, S. (2019) ‘What is Forest Bathing – and How Does it Help?’ Available at:

Mao, G X. (2012) ‘Effects of Short-term Forest Bathing on Human Health in a Broad-leaved Evergreen Forest in Zhejiang Province, China’ Biomedical and Environmental Sciences 25 (3) NIH. Available at:

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