2019 was a year of change, as so many years are. We spent the year adjusting to the ways of eastern North Carolina, while still maintaining our minimalist outlook on life, and taking as many opportunities as we could to experience life largely, while living small.
One of our latest hobbies is ‘Forest Bathing’. The term is a translation from the Japanese description, “Shinrin-yoku”. Bathing in the forest is a fancy way to describe, experiencing everything that nature has to offer, through all of your senses. You don’t actually bathe, in the sense of getting in a bathtub and washing. The Japanese describe it as “forest medicine”, meaning that being at one with nature, provides benefits to your mind, body, and soul. If you have ever been skinny dipping, it sort of exudes the same feeling, when it’s done correctly. You can keep your clothes on, though (or not). I have heard that some people actually remove their clothes, and shoes, to really expose all of their senses to the forest.
We have found a great place to bath in the forest: Goose Creek State Park. Goose Creek allows for an alluring experience of walking through trails along the Pamlico Sound, but also has many quiet spots to sit and take in mother nature through sight, sound, smell, taste, and feeling whatever comes your way.
Forest bathing is not just taking a walk on a nature trail, it is really stopping to smell the roses, or the pine. To really experience it, you have to leave your phone in the car, sit, or lie down, and really take it all in. We used to take our phones at first, to maneuver the trails via GPS since we were unfamiliar with the territory, but now, we thrive off of being unplugged for a few hours. When you stop in the middle of a forest, you hear sounds you could never hear if you are walking around. Your senses open up, and you actually taste the trees, the air, the environment’s tranquility and it is magical.
The benefits of forest bathing include:
- Boosted immune system functioning
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced stress
- Improved mood
- Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
- Increased energy level
- Improved sleep
Despite those benefits, an added bonus– if you go with a partner, or pup, it provides a way of bringing you closer together, as you experience it simultaneously. What’s beautiful about this practice is that it is available to anyone. As the British writer, Alan Watts, so eloquently put it,
“You didn’t come into this world.
You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.
You are not a stranger here.”
So, here is to 2020, another year of experiencing all that this world has to offer, freely, without the constraints of technology, and material things, that prevent us from a practice such as forest bathing. Give it a try, and let us know what your experiences are.