This beautiful old tree graced the yard of a B&B we stayed at over a weekend a few years ago. It was lit up at night. Against the stark, star studded night sky it looked magnificent. Called The Nest, the quaint cottage was secluded. Windows on all sides, even in the bathroom, overlooked the rustic country landscape dotted with splashes of flowers. Wild birds flocked to the garden for breakfast and dinner. It was so serene and peaceful we didn’t want to disturb the sounds of nature – simply immerse ourselves in it with windows open to enjoy the view.
Have you ever heard of forest bathing? I hadn’t until I stumbled across it recently. It immediately piqued my interest. Strolling in the forest, being absorbed in the smells, feel and sounds is something I have always loved. I don’t do it often enough. I have always been drawn to the majesty of trees, the different textured and coloured bark, foliage. It seems there is good scientific evidence to back up the feel good factor of being immersed in a forest, or, as it is being called, forest bathing.
Without knowing it, I used to forest bathe at least once a week when I was working. Whilst out on community visits, I would find a secluded park surrounded with trees to have quiet time in nature while I ate my lunch. There were a couple of favourites spots I frequented. One of them was almost in the CBD. It was a hidden treasure, I thought, nested in a small ‘valley’ by a stream. During the week days I was often the only one there. On one such occasion I was joined by black swans, ducks and other wild birds. They formed a semicircle in front of me, waiting patiently for me to feed them. It was magical. I always carried a bag of wild bird seed with me.
Forest bathing has been practised in Japan since the early 1980’s. And, I have discovered that there are guided forest bathing experiences on offer in Adelaide! The sessions are combined with mindfulness and meditation over a slow, leisurely stroll lasting 2.5 to 3 hours. I can do that without a guide. In fact, that is just what I was doing on those lunch breaks. Interestingly, many of the creative visualisation meditations I have scripted are set in a forest.
The Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences in Japan’s Chiba University measured the physiological effects of forest bathing on 280 subjects in their early 20s.
“Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments”
Now these are forests that I would love to bathe in!
© Raili Tanska