Forest Bathing: Taking in the natural world through one’s senses
How to: Forest-Bathe
- Savor sights, sounds, follow your nose as you head into the forest or park. Listen to the tap-tap-tap of a beak on wood or the two-tone note of a birdcall.
- Walk barefoot on sand, soil, or grass, if you dare, to receive a dose of earth’s healing electrons. Run your hands over the bark of a tree.
- Breathe deeply: Breathing trees’ natural aromatherapy allows body to inhale a plant chemical known as phytoncides, giving a boost to the immune system.
- Dip fingers or toes into a stream.
- After a rain, smell the fragrance of the earth and rock radiating the scent of petrichor
- Observe worries falling away as nature fills you with awe, a sense of wonder, transforming negative emotions into positive feelings.
- Sink into a state of soft fascination: Capture images of clouds above, sunset beyond, trees nearby. Do you smell lemon, cedar, pine, an herbal scent as you walk?
Fun Facts about Forest Bathing, a pillar of Japanese culture for decades:
- An estimate: Forests cover about 31% of the world’s land surface. One study found there are about 3.04 trillion trees on earth.
- Bird sounds appeal to the human ear because birdcalls fall between the frequency of 2500-3500 hertz, the range most pleasing to us.
- Forests produce oxygen, cleanse the air we breath, purify water, stop erosion. Forest plants restore, refresh troubled minds; help heal wounds.
- The Hoh rainforest in Washington’s Olympic National Forest, which I’ve visited, has a small red stone that marks one square inch of silence, not completely silent. (Listen to the relaxing video here!)
- Gardening is another way to experience “forest bathing” – Digging releases microbes in the soil. Eating veggies plucked from the ground improves health. Thanks to author friend Elaine Mansfield for supplying this link to Oliver Sacks’ article in the NYTimes on the benefits of gardening.
Fact of Fiction?
A group of Canadian, American and Australian researchers studying tree density and health in Toronto found that having ten more trees on a city block can make residents feel as good as being given a $10,000 pay raise or being seven years younger. Neighborhood Greenspace and Health in a Large Urban Area, 2015
Good morning, Marian! I haven’t walked in any forests lately, but I do like walking amidst trees. It is calming and soothing. A couple weeks ago when we were sitting outside a little coffee place on tree-lined city street, it was so pleasant, and I can imagine it does raise the spirits of the residents, and also makes the area cooler in the summer.
The thought of that ointment makes me both gag–and laugh. Can you imagine me using it around my cats? 😂
You love trees, and you love objects and ideas in the sky, often a feature of your poetry, I notice.
About the ointment: If you used it, would the cats gag too, or would they link your skin, I wonder. Once again, you are # 1 responder here. Thanks!
I live a two blocks from forest, and walking there is one of my favourite things to do. It makes all things right.
I’ve never heard of Stinking Tom leaves. Sounds like something that would heal a person right quick!
Yes, a chapter in my memoir mentions the magical effect of Stinkin’ Tom.
I’m glad you have access to a forest, great for writerly inspiration and de-stressing. :-).
Good morning Marian. As you know, I am fortunate to live in the Green Mountains of Vermont. My tiny parcel of only 30 acres is surrounded by neighbors with 100 acre plots and more. So nature is vitally important to me and I have learned much about life from living in her midst. A healthy woods, eg, has great diversity. That one is my favorite. 🙂 I don’t walk barefoot anymore, the orthotics you know, but I do get out into my woods daily. Bird song, winter dens, tracks in the snow … all bring me joy. Thanks for your post. It was delightful.
You live in a beautiful house in an enviable setting. I can picture it all from your photos. It’s early afternoon now and hot, hot, hot, but I must go “into the forest to lose my mind and find my soul,” something I think John Muir said. We don’t have 30 acres, but enough trees in the preserve to help me find my soul. I’m glad you related to this post, Janet!
Lovely post, Marian. As someone who loves to listen to the birds, I found that fact quite interesting. I enjoy walking in our wooded park, but I don’t go as much in the summer months since I have a fear of snakes. 🙂 By the way, I love Cliff’s drawing!
I know you love birds, Jill, especially hummingbirds. Do they make a sound beyond the whirr of their wings?
I’ll let Cliff know you like the drawing, Jill!
Oh yes, they can be rather loud when they’re battling over the feeder. 🙂
What a lovely post and so true! We are fortunate enough to live right in the heart of a National Park, with the edge of the forest right outside our gate, which I find extremely soothing and relaxing. I am inclined to believe that your Fact or Fiction paragraph us actually true, at least for myself.
The only thing that spoils its calm is the road nearby, especially when fast motorbikes shoot past. I wish there was a law for all motorbikes to use silencers: they do annoy me so!
Have you tried making your grandmother’s salve? I’m guessing it works because you say it’s very healing.
Enjoy your forest!
How wonderful to love in a national park, surrounded by oxygen-giving trees.
Perhaps I should re-name the heading “Fact or Fiction” because it comes from an official scientific report. No, I haven’t made my grandma’s salve. I’ve lived in Florida for decades now, and I don’t think I would have the ingredients available, at least not in our woods. Thanks for asking!
Here’s to happy hiking on a noise-free path, Fatima!
I’m in! I love Cliff’s illustration, too. 🙂
Thanks, Linda! I’ll pass the good word along to Cliff. 🙂
I feel the same way about the sea. I find walking along the seashore very theraputic. Forests are great too and we recently walked in one near Tarragona and found a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct. It was like we had entered a time portal. There was nothing in the forest to indicate we were in the 21st century.
Cliff’s drawing is perfect!
It seems there are seashore people and woods people. You enjoy the best of both worlds where you live now. European civilization is so much older than the American counterpart. I don’t expect to find a 2000-year-old Roman aqueduct here – ha!
Thanks for joining the conversation here, Darlene.
In many films and books there are scenes where people bathe in a pond or stream. I’ve never gone that route, though I have hiked in the woods. If I were to do so, I would need something to repel bugs.
Me too! Maybe I should carry a sprig from my “mosquito” [repellent] plant on my next woodsy walk.
I liked your comment about people bathing in a pond or stream, so out of curiosity I googled this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actaeon
Thanks for adding this, L. Marie!
I’ve never had the opportunity to forest bath, but The Rev certainly makes it enticing. Love the outdoors; plants, birds, and wide open sky. Opens the whole of a person to experience the vastness of God’s creation. The Hoh rain forest is one of my all time favorite hikes.
I’ll tell the Rev you like his drawing. I know you love God’s creation and have created a lovely spot of Eden in your backyard!
Right beside my computer I spy a bookmark with the Hall of Mosses from the Hoh Forest. I remember those luxuriant folds of moss draping from the trees. Wow!
O yes please let me see trees! Where i am right now is a delight – I’m away from home in Eden it seems to me. Trees plants everywhere, a riot of color and birdsong. I can hear the river down below in the gorge. This morning I went for a walk a little further than yesterdays’s walk and again gave thanks for all that is beautiful and bountiful. I would imagine that anyone who can walk in forests even if seldom would feel tension dissolving. Your photos are gorgeous Marian … thank you!
I’d love to join you in Eden, Susan, where fall is turning to winter in your hemisphere, I believe. But not to sound ungrateful, I’ll enjoy our little oasis though it’s very, very hot right now!
Cliff’s drawing is so much fun. Love the tree stump coffee table, the wash-line limb and all the little critters. Never made any herbal remedy like the lard one above, but I am sure it would be better for me than all those products full of polysyllabic chemicals.
I still walk across my back yard in my barefeet. With compost bucket in hand. Two birds with one stone. Oops. I have no interest in shooting birds!
You may recall a few lines in my memoir in which Aunt Ruthie aimed her 22 at starlings who tried to mess with her garden.
I admire your composting. Our son, like many of his forebears, has a nice-sized compost pile near his house. Composting skipped a generation: I don’t like the smell! But I do agree: I try to avoid “polysyllabic chemicals” too. I’ll pass the compliment on to Cliff, Shirley! 🙂
Marian — We live a stone’s throw from the Boise River Greenbelt that’s surrounded by trees, Trees, glorious TREES. We walk a portion of the Greenbelt at least three times a day. And now that we’re grandparents and have our granddaughter for a portion of each weekday, we take Luna (in her stroller) on at least one of those daily walks with us.
I remember you and Len carefully choosing Boise and then scouting out a special part of the city where you could enjoy the GREEN! This week I enjoyed seeing you with water bottles escorting Luna on your walk. You are smart to divide up your walking into three segments – You take a break from writing work and pace yourself in your daily goal, which I think is an admirable 10,000 steps. Way to go, Laurie!
I’ve never heard the term “forest bathing” and it has intrigued me, knowing it is a Japanese idea. I live in a beautiful California suburb but it does have a few very natural walking trails where I delight in listening to bird calls, and viewing azure skies and fluffy clouds as well as twilight shadows and sunsets. It always renews my soul when I take time to go out and taste nature.
Thanks for your reminder, Miriam!
The recipe of your aunt is fascinating! Not sure I’d trust it for myself, but so interesting. You probably recall my post on the benefits of walking in woods shared 2 years ago in May. https://findingharmonyblog.com/2017/05/10/finding-harmony-in-a-forest-cathedral/ I’m definitely a fan of the benefits of walking in the woods!
The tall canopy of trees makes the forest look like a cathedral, for sure. When I clicked on your post again, I saw my comment and the gorgeous photos, very refreshing.
Thanks for checking in today, Melodie. Does retirement feel like a vacation? Something else? I remember feeling discombobulated for a while.
I spent the last 5 days in the mountains of North Carolina. The lake at our lodgings also brought ducks, ducklings, Geese and goslings, Blue Gill building nests in the shallow water. Being outside in nature for me is the best medicine I can give myself, whether it’s inland or by the sea.
You enjoyed the best of both worlds, woods and water. Sweltering in 98+ degree temps, I envy you now. Of course, I agree; being outside is the best medicine. Thanks, Joan!
I smiled widely when I saw Cliff’s drawing. Are you the model in it? I think so. And amidst the bubbles you are chanting your haikus. The sunset haiku you wrote is delightful. I think it’s interesting how the benefits of walking in the woods are getting lots of attention now. Over my years, I’ve always known how good I feel walking among the trees, listening to the birds and the scrunching of small animals nearby. Never thought of writing a book about it, though. Darn! 🙂 Our townhome is nestled within some large gorgeous trees, so when I look out of most of our windows, I breathe in the sight of sturdy trunks, delicate branches, swaying leaves. Soothing. And when I can open the windows (I wish I could now but those pine tree pollens are killin’ me) I love to listen to the birds tweet in delight.
I don’t think I’m the model for Cliff’s drawing though I suggested where to put the bubbles – ha! Besides, I’m not a redhead, but a chemically enhanced dark brown, my natural color. You’ve painted such a shimmering image, like Lisa Dale Norton describes in her guide for memoirists. Thank you, Pamela!
The pollen has been relentless here in NE Florida too: pine and oak earlier this year; now jasmine and gardenias. I prefer birdie tweets to many humans!
Wonderful, Marian! Felt like I was in the woods around home. Brought home more ‘awareness!’
I’m thrilled that you felt a stir of awareness. The woods here, and back home near Rheems, bring back strong memories. Thanks for commenting, Jack!
Just pre-orderd a copy of Qing Li’s book; thanks for the heads up!
Good for you! It’s a real mix of scientific research and practical tips; you’ll enjoy it. 🙂
I’m a bark toucher and a tree hugger on my frequent forest trips, but I rarely walk barefoot. I love my sturdy hiking boots to help with balance. Your other suggestions are dear to me and despite continuing rain, we’ve been able to mow the paths to the forest so it’s accessible again. I’m on my way there today–and to dip my hand in the stream and look for wild geraniums, the last spring ephemerals. The rain has made a mossy green world on trees, stones, and paths, so maybe a barefoot walk on moss? I’ve loved reading about the ways trees communicate with each other underground, keep in touch, and protect the young. It makes me happy to have a conservation easement on my land as part of the deed which means the forest will always be protected. It makes it easier to love each giant oak when I know they’ll be here long after I’m gone, just as they’re still watching over Vic. There is nothing more appealing to my new hearing that bird songs. What a gift!
And finally the garden and the men (my son, his friend, and another man who works for me year round) who are willing to put in a few extra hours to make the garden space smaller, safer from deer, rabbits, and others who love the same greens I love, and more manageable so the garden experience is more joy and less task. I love garden bathing and garden eating. Thanks for another beautiful post. Isn’t Oliver Sacks a gem? I’ve loved his wisdom and writing for a long, long time and miss him.
Walking barefoot on moss sounds enchanting. When I walk on the path in our preserve, I make sure I touch the little cushions of moss on the trail. Walking on the soft ground, as opposed to sidewalks, will ease my plantar fasciitis, so I think. I’m overjoyed that you can hear bird songs on your walks. 😀
My first encounter with Oliver Sacks was in his book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. What a gifted, prodigious man he was. I enjoy reading your happy thoughts, garden bathing and garden eating, the whole shebang!
My comment was already too, too long, but I have to add I love Cliff’s drawing.
I’ll make sure he knows about your compliment. Sometimes he skims through my blog posts. Thanks again, Elaine!
Love your Haiku. Shared it with hubby and he says he likes the butter part! We’re just returning from visiting daughter and grands in Ontario where trees are so lush and green. Spent some time outside with a granddaughter who loves to climb trees and saw how attune to nature she is.
Thank you for sharing my haiku with your hardy hubby. My mother loved butter. I can still hear her say with a dimpled smile, “Butter makes it better!”
How lovely that you can pair a family visit with outdoor fun. Being tuned into nature is a virtue that can serve us all our lives. Your grand-daughter knows that already. Thanks for your thoughts, Elfrieda!
What a fun post Marian. Loved the fairy forest and learning about forest bathing. And, I live in Toronto and have to say a street full of trees looks beautiful but doesn’t feel like 10,000 bucks would lol 😉
Ha! That was my conclusion too, Debby.However, I believe the article specified that a street full of trees had the effect of $10,000 in the bank, a subtle difference. 😀
Oh we have many of those. They are truly beautiful, but the tangible feeling of receiving 10K I’m sure would have an immediate uplifting effect, lol 🙂
Enjoyed your forest bathing blog. My Mom loved nature and always took us on hikes up the hills behind our house in WV. We looked for different leaves and “critters”, and had a picnic lunch. That instilled in me a love of nature, too.
One of my favorite forest visits was to Muir Woods near San Francisco. We visited it twice while Brad lived there, and took Lief & Rudy when they visited the States. There is something about the forest that calms you, and leaves you feeling refreshed.
I also loved the recipe for healing salve.😊
We miss sweet Ima, who must have instilled in you a love for God’s creation. I’m in the woods often in my memoir, which you can relate to, for sure.
Muir Woods is lovely, but it was so long ago. I do faitly remember the calming scenery and possibly the fragrances too. I’m glad you enjoyed this!
Perhaps I should take more walks in the woods.Maybe I’d see a redhead beauty in a deep claw-foot bathtub as that image came to mind that I drew. 🙂 Thanks to many of you who commented.
At Muir Woods I’ve often enjoyed the gigantic redwoods. When driving north of the Golden Gate Bridge up on the windy coastal highway to the Muir Woods it’s hard to believe in such a dry coastal area so close to the ocean that all of a sudden your presented to lush acres of woods and coastal redwoods that make your neck ache when you look upward. The low mountains have a little slice that provides the perfect moisture-laden air that produces such beauty.
One trip Out West just a few miles south of Muir Woods I wanted to say hello to the Pacific Ocean (from the Atlantic Ocean in Florida) at Muir Beach. I did not realize that after wiping off my wet hands from a handkerchief from my back pocket I unknowingly dropped my rental car keys on the beach. Frantically I searched for the keys but to no avail. It was getting cold with a jacket waiting for me on the INSIDE of the locked car.
The temperature must have dropped from a pleasant 70 to the 40’s very quickly. I had to wait a loooong time in darkness for a locksmith to arrive from Sausalito on a Sunday night. But the woods were great!
Thanks for taking a walk down memory lane . . . through the woods and on the beach. I remember your not telling me about losing your keys right away. It all came out okay in the end though. 🙂
I love woodlands and forests , and like you Marian , I have been enjoying one or two books on forest bathing and it’s immense benefits.
I would take in my F.B. bucket; A journal or note pad to jot down thoughts, feelings and discoveries , a ladybird ( or equivalent) book on wild flowers etc , a flask of English tea and a bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut .
You are well-equipped with food, drink, and strong legs to walk. I wonder which of the forest bathing books you’ve been reading. At my desk, I have watered-down cranberry juice, chocolate and some pretzels. Soon, I have to stop staring at a screen and relax with faraway looks in the woods.
As usual, you’ve given me some good ideas, Cherry. Thanks! xo
I forest bathe every day!
I know you do, Fiona! It’s a wonderful habit no matter where you live. Besides, you have trusty companions on your walks: your doggies and a fine camera.
Forest Bathing. I love it. I bet it can also be called Nature Bathing. But that doesn’t sound as good.
Let’s see… today, I dipped my feet in a cold mountain stream, felt the rain pelt on my head, walked barefeet on sand (and in thorns), smelled fresh plants and flowers after the rain, and stared at the sky, when grey replaced blue. Yet, I wouldn’t want it any different! 🙂
I had no idea about the stone in the Hoh Forest, so we missed it during our visit last summer. Food for thought, Marian. And, yes, how I enjoy to be in nature and having the time to reflect on that. Forests are wonderful and smelling the pine trees when we were above 8,000ft recently – especially after spending many months in the desert – was pure bliss.
You and Mark have chosen the path of nature bathing which so many people put off until they retire/go on vacations, etc.
Don’t worry about missing the one square inch of silence in the Hoh Forest. The short recording isn’t silent at all: bird calls (and breezes), I think. I agree with you about pine scent. Yes, the desert has its special beauty, but to me not as restorative as the forest. Thanks, Liesbet!
Just found this verse today, perfect for the theme:
Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice. Psalms 96:12
Happened by through fb links. So glad I did. I relate to the love of walking with nature, although must be satisfied with virtual hikes for now. Love that my 4 yr granddaughter, Delaney Mae, has been hugging trees since she was 2…
Welcome, Kayse. I believe you connected here through a mutual friend, Kas Sartori. What a treasure you have in your granddaughter, who already is in tune to nature. Do visit again!