Recently my local paper ran an article entitled, “What is Forest Bathing?” It would seem that this term would refer to bathing in the forest or taking a bath there. That’s not the case. The type of forest bathing I’m referring to does not involve any water.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing is a term that comes from the Japanese, Shinrin-Yoku, which means bathing in nature. Again, we’re not swimming or taking a bath or shower in the forest. In essence, we’re getting nature therapy. And that’s a really great thing. At the same time, I think it’s super sad that what used to be a basic part of our daily lives is now considered a therapy.
How the Internet Changed Us
Why is everything we used to naturally do as part of our day considered a “special” thing? The answer is, it’s because we spend so much time shut in with our computers, phones, TVs, and other electronic devices that we now have to force ourselves to get outside. In fact, a while back I read in Fast Company that Netflix has so much content for their programming that they are competing with sleep.
Elana, You’re a Hypocrite!
I know what you’re thinking. Elana, you’re a hypocrite! Why are you writing on a computer about getting in touch with nature? And to some extent, you’re totally right.
Use Your Devices, Don’t Let Them Use You
I have a retort to that thought. Use your devices people! Don’t let them use you! Get outside. Of course, bring your phone, but turn the dang thing off for an hour while you go for a walk. If you live in a city and you think you can’t bathe in nature, I disagree. I lived in New York City for nearly two decades and I walked in nature on a daily basis.
Turn Off Alerts on Your Phone
I have all of the alerts turned off on my computer so that I don’t know when I get an email. I check on it. Email does not check on me! That way I’m in control and not addicted to all those little dings and pings.
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Pings Dings & Dopamine
We think the pings are helpful, harmless, innocuous little things. They are not. Each time we get an alert our brain releases dopamine. This is the neurotransmitter that gives us a high. The ping, dopamine rush, and subsequent little high is what causes a physiological addiction to our devices.
What’s Wrong with Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing is awesome and amazing. There’s actually nothing wrong with this fabulous, ancient Japanese practice. But why do we have to call it Forest Bathing when we simply used to walk in the woods? Even when I lived in New York City for two decades, I figured out a way to go for a stroll in Central Park each day. If I couldn’t make it over to the park, I grabbed a few minutes down by the Hudson River. Once I even went canoeing on the East River. That was not called “nature therapy” it was a date I went on with an awesome, outdoorsy guy, preceding Mr. Pantry.
What’s Happening to Us?
What is our society coming to? Are we now so busy and isolated that we have to schedule time to bathe in the forest? I hope not. I love my neighborhood strolls. And I love looking at the huge towering trees in Mapleton Hill. Even when I’m on a trip to a city, I grab time outside to walk and look at the sky. That’s not therapy, that’s just life as I know it.
The habit of enjoying nature is certainly healthy, no matter what you call it! I remember when I was studying abroad. I loved the city life. I was immersed in learning, reading, and the culture of the city. I didn’t notice how I missed the greenery of nature until we went on a weekend trip. We were in a local village where we were going to learn about the traditional customs and history of the region. I don’t remember anything about that trip other than how I felt as I steeped off the bus and gazed at the gardens from the balconies of each of the homes. It was majestic! Vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs made a cascade of greenery that I had been craving but didn’t know. I spent the day enjoying the plants in a way I never had before! Being apart from nature is something I never want to experience again.
Nina, could not have said it better myself :-)
Lisa Herzberger says
Check out Dr Stephen Sinatra/grounding on You tube! There is actual science to back the idea of EM electro magnetic pollution and it’s effects on our bodies! Sounds like forest bathing is very similar to grounding!
Lisa, I have written a great deal about EMFs and my experience with them. Here’s some more info on that:
Grounding is the best!
I’m with you!
Alex Dickerson says
Don’t lose your audience. It hurt my feelings when you insinuated that I would think forest bathing was actual washing, a la forest, or that something might be wrong with it. (I don’t expect you to approve this comment, this is unsolicited advice, meant for a beautiful and capable woman who moved to Boulder. You are more powerful than this.)
Alex, thanks for your feedback. When we first stumbled upon the term “forest bathing” my family and I thought it meant splashing around in the forest in water. So nothing was insinuated here, these were our actual thoughts. And, as I wrote in this post, “In essence, we’re getting nature therapy. And that’s a really great thing.” From your comment, I see I didn’t communicate clearly, or convey my love of nature and forest bathing. My thesis (and goal) was to state that technology has taken over our culture to the point that we now must schedule things that used to be routine and normal parts of our day. In reading your comment I see I’ve failed here in communicating that. Thanks again for your input, I publish all comments here and take them to heart. ❤️
Elana, you send your children off into the world to college and now you become a wild woman, Bahahahahaha…..I hope you are amused, love ya just the way you are…!
Laura honey, I’ve ALWAYS been a wild woman :-)
Thanks for sharing this with us! You’re right that it should be common sense or intuitive knowledge. Being in nature truly adds an essential element to our healing and just simply feeling human. I love to spend time in my garden and in the woods.
Laticia, I totally agree :-)
Linda Matlock says
No matter where I am, I have always tried to practice always remember that I control the phone and the phone does not control me. This was very useful for me to remember.
I just returned from an amazing women’s retreat in Beach Lake, PA ( in the Pocono Mountains) called Rise Gatherings. It was incredible, life-changing weekend of workshops, connection, and self discovery. One of the workshops I took was called forest baiting and it was quite the highlight of the weekend! I fell in love with the concept, already knowing that nature is extremely therapeutic to my soul. It was so serendipitous to see your article, Elana! I am determined to learn more and start my own chapter in Bucks County, right here at our beautiful local park. I am so excited! Our ancestors spent most of their lives outdoors, their feet in the ground, and hands in the Earth…… we all need more nature; to heal, reflect, and preserve what is left. ❤️
Eve, all I can do is quote your awesome comment, “Our ancestors spent most of their lives outdoors, their feet in the ground, and hands in the Earth…… we all need more nature; to heal, reflect, and preserve what is left.” Wow, that is a mantra I can say every day. ❤️
Elana, I love this! I “used to” follow you on Instagram, but I’m leaving a comment here instead, because a few months ago I removed Instagram from my phone! I had already gotten rid of Facebook a while before that. I live in the greater Boston area, and I was finding myself scrolling mindlessly on Instagram on my hour train commute. I realized how ridiculous it was to be staring at a screen when I’m not at work! Especially since I would say how tired I get from being in front of a screen all day. I haven’t missed neither my Instagram nor Facebook. If I want to scroll now, I read a good article instead. Or I practice “just sitting” there – there is nothing wrong with that either, yet we feel compelled to fill our time with something, even if it works against our wellbeing. Another thing I am becoming more mindful of is how often I want to snap a photo and share it (via text) to friends/family. It’s usually something I’m seeing while on a walk or something, and I’ve started to ask myself, “Can I just enjoy this instead? Without having to take out my phone to snap a photo and share it?” The feeling is often lost in photos anyway, so why not pause and savor it versus snapping it to share?
Andis, wow, what a powerful comment. I couldn’t agree with you more on every single point you make in it!
prafull goel says
Forest bathing is a great concept .Natural habitat is something that gives piece to one self.
To get the full Forest Bathing experience, you go with a certified guide (me) as a group. Usually there are 5-10 and the guide weaves the session together using a series of ‘invitations’ (relaxation exercises designed to activate the senses) that slow you down and deepen your connection to nature. After each invitation we reconvene as a group so each person can share something of their experience and the guide holds that safe space in the circle for everyone. It can be very therapeutic, cathartic, emotional. You leave having experienced a deep sense of peace and developing a bond for nature – that lasts – and can fundamentally change who you are. It isn’t simply walking in nature, in fact we don’t walk far at all. I’d love to show you one day!
Sonya, that sounds amazing!