Allow me to introduce you (or re-introduce if you’re already aware of the magic of what this is) to shinrin-yoku. Say it out loud, it even feels relaxing rolling off of the tongue. (Shin-rin yo-koo).
Shinrin Yoku is a centuries old Japanese modality that involves being present-minded in nature, noticing the colors, sights, sounds, and energy around you when you’re in the forest. It’s been proven to improve your sleep-wake cycle, reduce stress, strengthen the immune system, and improve cardiovascular, and respiratory functioning. In fact, forest bathing is prescribed in Japan as a preventative measure, by doctors.
I’ve had the privilege to do several shinrin-yoku sessions in the forests of the Chicago Botanic Garden. You really commune with nature. You enter a meditative state by noticing, and noting the nature around you, by connecting with it’s energies. I know it all sounds very hippy, but shinrin yoku, or forest bathing, allows your thoughts to quiet, and your mind to concentrate by only having you focus on one present-moment experience at a time. Noting the green of leaves, noticing the wind rustling in the trees, the sun’s incandescent rays, shadowy on the forest floor. The feel of your feet on the forest floor. Noticing if there are sounds of animals, or water. It’s a fantastic, and energizing experience, that just ask’s you to be present with nature.
You can do this yourself, although a forest therapy guide will help you get the most out of your experience, you can begin on your own. It doesn’t have to be a lush forest that you do it in, it can be at a local park, or a national park. Take your journal with you, and write how you feel immediately after, so by reading this journal entry days later, you can come back to that state of peace. To start off, I’ll give you a little exercise that can guide you.
- 5 things you can see, note the colors
- 4 things feel, note the texture
- 3 things you can hear, note the sound
- 2 things can you smell, note the fragrance
- 1 thing you can taste, note the essence
Journal Entry Prompts: (You can answer them all, or use one to guide your entry about the experience.)
- What did I see, hear, and smell while walking?
- How did I feel while walking?
- What emotions came up for me?
- What physical sensations were there?
- What memory from this experience will stay with me?
- How did my body, and mind feel during this activity?
These prompts should guide you to begin. And of course as always, practice social distancing, and mindfully wear a mask while you’re doing it. 🙂