Trees in a forest

Shinrin-yoku, which translates into English as ‘forest bathing', is the Japanese wellbeing activity that supports our physical and mental wellbeing by taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk.

This year's theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is nature and how nature can play a role in supporting our mental health. Shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere or taking in the forest through our senses. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. 

These invitations can also be taken in a garden. Just slow walking, focusing on our senses, keeping phones tucked away, and with no need to chat, you are in the company of trees.

Here are our top 10 tips for forest bathing:

  1. Take a slow stroll in the woods, or in your garden, and simply focus on your breathing.

  2. Find a spot to stop, lean against a tree, or take a seat, soften your gaze (like being in a daydream) or close your eyes, and focus on what you can hear, nearby or far away.

  3. Walk slowly and see what different ‘greens’ you can find.

  4. If it has been raining, focus on where you see water. What different places do you see the water?

  5. If it is sunny, where do you see light and shade?

  6. Petrichor - a pleasant, earthy smell that accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Consider smell; if it has been raining go out and take deep breaths.

  7. Take a leaf and gently squeeze it, bring it to your nose and breathe deeply.

  8. Taste. Before going outside (garden or woods), make a comforting drink; hot chocolate, herbal tea, decaf tea, or coffee. Take your flask or drink and find a good place to sit for a while. Concentrate on the act of making the drink from your flask, the smell of the drink, savour the flavour and feeling on your tongue and in your mouth.

  9. If you’re in an area where it is safe (lawns are ideal), take off your shoes and socks and consciously walk on the ground, feeling the earth underfoot. Remember to breathe.

  10. Lastly, find yourself in a place surrounded by trees, close your eyes and breathe. Open your eyes and look at the trees, walk towards one and get to know it. Maybe touch the bark, look up through its canopy, consider its life and who makes it a home. Lean on your tree for a while, breathe deeply.

There are lots of studies and research that indicates being in nature, and particularly in the woods, is beneficial to our human systems. Could being close to nature be part of your self-care?