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What Is Forest Bathing and Can it Really Reduce Stress?

Forget bubble baths – forest bathing will take your self-care game to the next level and help you control stress. It’s exactly what it sounds like: immersing yourself in the soothing environment of a forest. Forest bathing originated in Japan – the Japanese call it shinrin-yoku. According to National Geographic, the practice emerged in the 1980s to “offer an eco-antidote to tech-boom burnout and to inspire residents to reconnect with and protect the country’s forests.” 

“I wish everyone realized how powerful and grounding it is to forest bath. We are all on our phones, checking emails, sending texts, and watching screens all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, but it is also overwhelming and can be a massive source of distraction and disconnection,” says Andrea Donnelly, Quantum Sound and Energy Healer, Spiritual Mentor, and Business Mentor. According to Donnelly, surrounding yourself with trees helps reground you in powerful and transformative ways. She’s been doing it since childhood. 

“I was a super sensitive kid, wildly empathic, and I knew that no matter what was happening in my life, that when I would go walk in the woods and find a quiet place to chill out with the trees that I would always feel, often immediately better, calmer, and less overwhelmed. It always left me feeling energized and deeply held by the Earth, which is pretty priceless. It’s a practice I still continue with today,” she says. 

The Benefits of Forest Bathing 

Forest bathing is not only good for your mental and emotional well-being, but it also can improve your physical health. “Forest bathing has been studied, and there is evidence that spending time in the woods can lower your blood pressure, lower your pulse, and have some other powerful physiological effects that benefit your overall wellness and physical health,” says Donnelly. 

So yes, forest bathing has a tangible, positive effect on stress levels. There’s also something philosophical (or spiritual, depending on your beliefs) about remembering that you are part of a larger ecosystem. “We can all get bogged down in our own pain, our own experiences, which is perfectly normal, but we need to find ways to cultivate inner peace and clarity,” adds Donnelly. Whether you’re taking in all the sounds of the critters around you or feeling the sun hit your skin through the trees, forest bathing reminds you that you are part of “an elaborate tapestry and an interconnected web,” as Donnelly puts it. “It is quite meditative and seems to be one of the ways we can get back to our sacred center and navigate the human journey with as much grace and ease as possible.” 

Tips To Start Forest Bathing To Reduce Stress 

Ready to start forest-bathing to counter the effects of scrolling and the pressures of daily life? If you’re not close to a forest, don’t fret – you can still reap the benefits in any green space. Donnelly recommends visiting a park or botanical garden. “And if you can head deeper into nature, do it! Find a park or forest with trails and spend the day drinking in the vibe,” she says. 

Forest bathing is an exercise in mindfulness, so aim to be aware of your surroundings, down to the details. “Find a place to sit for a while, completely unplugging from your phone or any external distractions,” suggests Donnelly. If you are into running or biking, feel free to get moving, too. You can bring snacks, a blanket, and a journal for a contemplative picnic. 

If you want to take your experience to a profound level, set an intention and let yourself feel your reverence for the ecosystem around you. “Offer a prayer and set an intention that the wisdom of the space leaves you lighter, more grounded, and relaxed than before. Move through the woods with a sense of gratitude and stewardship. Most of all, let the quiet nourish you and have fun exploring a beautiful, new world,” adds Donnelly. 

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