A Forest Bathing Tutorial
Experience the calming power of nature with this Forest Bathing Tutorial.
Hello Valkyries! I’m excited to share this tutorial I wrote how to do go on a forest bathing walk. As a certified nature and forest therapy guide, I help people reduce stress, sooth anxiety, and connect with nature in a special way. For those I can’t reach, or who can’t attend one of my guided forest therapy walks, I’ve written this handy tutorial on how to do it just for you.
If you’ve never gone forest bathing before or need a refresher, this “how-to guide” will provide easy steps to relax and help you connect to the healing and calming power of nature.
For those not in the know, forest bathing (also known as shinrin-yoku, also known as forest therapy) is a Japanese practice of spending time in nature, connecting with the forest and its surroundings through your senses. It is a simple but powerful way to reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your overall health and well-being.
A Brief History on Forest Bathing (Forest Therapy)
The history of forest therapy, or shinrin-yoku, can be traced back to Japan in the 1980s. The term “shinrin-yoku” was coined by Tomohide Akiyama, a Japanese physician who was inspired connect people with forests hoping it would promote forest conservation.
Akiyama believed that spending time in nature could have a number of health benefits, including reducing stress, improving mood, and boosting the immune system. He began conducting research on the effects of forest bathing, and his findings were published in a number of scientific journals.
In the 1990s, the Japanese government began promoting forest bathing as a form of preventive medicine. Today, there are over 60 forest therapy bases in Japan, and the practice is becoming increasingly popular around the world.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence to support the health benefits of forest bathing. Studies have shown that forest bathing can reduce stress, improve mood, boost the immune system, and even lower blood pressure.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your health and well-being, forest bathing is a simple and effective option. Just find a forest or other natural setting that you find peaceful and relaxing, and spend some time connecting with the natural world. You may be surprised at how good it makes you feel.
Solo Forest Bathing 101
Let’s get started, shall we? Below you will find a guide to forest bathe alone.
Preparing for Your Forest Bathing Session
- Check the weather. It’s good to dress in layers, since you won’t be working up a sweat.
- Wear comfortable yet appropriate shoes, especially if you go off trail.
- Tell someone where you’re going and a time frame when you get back in case you are injured.
- Think about any potential hazards where you are going. Insects like ticks, animals, plants like poison ivy, etc. can be a concern.
- Bring water or a special beverage like a tea and a snack if you wish.
- Bring a mat or seating if you want, but not required.
- You may need sunscreen or bug spray.
- Bring your phone in case of emergency, but don’t use it on the walk. I know it’s tempting to take pictures, but resist the urge. You can always go back to those special places after you’ve completed your walk.
- This is not a hike! Forget getting from Point A to Point B. Most of the forest therapy walks I guide, we travel less than a mile. You can go as far as you wish, or as little. There is no end goal here.
- It might surprise you that as simple as this is, forest bathing can be very profound. Various emotions may come up and surprise you, catching you off guard. I encourage you to wear your badge of vulnerability and let them come up! And not every walk will be as profound, but I promise you are still receiving many benefits, both mentally and physically.
(Tip: Bookmark or print this page for handy reference.)
While a forest is ideal, it’s not necessary to be able to forest bathe. Nature centers and preserves are ideal, arboretums are gorgeous, and quiet parks are nice also. You can forest bathe in your own backyard, at work – where ever you can find nature.
The quieter the location the better, but once you get the hang of forest bathing, you’ll be able to drown out urban sounds and forget there’s a highway nearby!
Before you begin your forest bathing walk, let’s get into the mindset. Have a firm intention to forest bathe. Being conscious of needing to slow down, to open your senses and be mindful, enhances the experience. Take a moment to create a little ceremony of beginning, like a threshold to mark your beginning of the walk. This could be the beginning of a forest, between two trees or rocks, etc. You can make your own threshold with sticks or acorns or whatever is nearby. Closing your eyes and taking a few breaths helps set the intention of connecting with Nature. Before you walk through, perform the steps below – Opening Senses.
Find a quiet space where you can stand. If standing is challenging for you, feel free to sit. If you feel comfortable, begin this exercise with your eyes closed or hold a soft gaze toward the ground. Give a few minutes to each sensory invitation. There is no rush.
Turn your focus toward your ears. What your ears are hearing? Perhaps it is many layers of sounds. What is the nearest and farthest sound you can hear? Can you hear a pattern or rhythm?
Shifting to your nose, can you smell anything? Can you smell more than one thing? Is one scent stronger than the other?
Can you taste anything right now? Perhaps you can taste something inside your mouth. Try tasting the air and see how that feels. Suck in air through an imaginary straw. How does that feel?
Bring your attention to your body, your skin. Can you notice the difference between the skin under your clothes vs. skin exposed to air? Stretch your arms out, palms out, and hold the air between your hands. How does it feel to hold the atmosphere in your hands?
Your Heart Sense
When you feel ready, very slowly open your eyes as if you are opening them for the first time in your existence. And when you do, consider that everything you see, sees you as well. That these beings are not only sentient, but feeling, watching, and communicating. Most importantly, they are welcoming you to their home.
Acknowledge and reflect on that last feeling for a few moments, just noticing how this experience feels in your body. Ask yourself,
“What am I noticing?”
This question is open ended on purpose, because you have the ability to notice what’s around you, within your body, your mind, and in your heart, and there is no wrong answer. Your opened senses assist you in feeling full embodiment.
When ready, walk through/over your threshold and begin the next phase below.
Suggested Forest Bathing Activities
The following are a selection of my favorite forest bathing activities I invite you to do. Choose 1-3, or as many as you like. I recommend 10-15 minutes for each, but feel free to spend as long as you wish. Always listen to what you body needs and wants.
What’s in Motion?
A great invitation to get started after opening up your senses is called What’s In Motion? We rush so much in this busy world. So many things demand our attention. I invite you to walk around very slowly and just focus on what’s in motion.
What did you notice? What are you noticing right now within you?
Follow the Leader
Go out and devote most of your attention on sounds in the Untamed World. Catch a sound with your ears and follow it for as long as you want.
Where will it take you?
Wander out and explore how the forest feels. Perhaps you could feel a rough texture and spend time with it. How does that feel, and what arises in your body when you feel it? When ready to move on, find its opposite – a smooth texture. How does that feel differently than the last being you touched?
I wonder what comes up for you as you examine these textures?
Making a New Friend
Find a tree that looks inviting or calls to you. Approach and introduce yourself in whatever way you feel comfortable. Sit with it for awhile and get to know each other.
What did you learn about your new friend?
Take a moment and focus on your breathing. While inhaling, be aware of what you are receiving from this place, in particular the trees. The gift of oxygen. The gift of life.
While exhaling, be aware of what you are giving back to the trees. Take deep, slow breaths and allow yourself to reflect on this mutual gifting.
How does this link feel to you?
Transitioning to the End of the walk
When you feel that you are coming toward the end of your forest bathing experience, don’t rush it. It can be jarring to the system to go from a stage of liminality and deep embodiment to the noise of the Tamed World.
Before you return to your ceremonial beginning, or if traveling in a linear direction, stop before you break out of the forest or park, and find a nice place to reflect. This part helps you ease back
into the Known World. The following is a suggested option to slowly regulate the body in preparation of returning to ordinary life.
At the Threshold of the Known World
- Find a lovely, comfy spot and sit for awhile. I usually do about 10-20 minutes.
- Just be. Become a part of this place. Become nature, because you are nature.
- Observe what is around you. Be present.
- Fulfill what your body wants.
- Sip some water with fresh herbs or hot tea. Offer a little to the forest as a way of saying thanks for being with me.
- Have a snack.
- Acknowledge and give thanks to the other nature beings you happened to be with.
- Reflect and/or journal about the experience.
- As you enjoy your time easing back into the present, ask yourself, “What completes this experience for me?”
- One thing I love to do is before I leave, I apply some forest scented essential oils to my wrists to remember my lovely experience.
A few things to remember: There is no wrong way to do this. All is the way it should be. Practice going very slowly, and I promise you that the More Than Human World will not only delight you, but communicate and offer you wisdom and love. Slowing down for a long period of time is harder than we think! The more mindful you are of your body will help you to slow down and immerse yourself completely.
The forest has your back. All beings will support you, if you allow yourself to set aside any preconceived notions or skepticisms. Many people incorporate parts of forest therapy with their hikes and camping trips, and that is OK. The more you practice forest bathing, the more you will notice the benefits.
I hope you give forest bathing a try, whether with a certified guide or alone. Or both! I’d love to hear how it went so drop me a line on my socials or contact me on my website. May you find peace, inspiration, and contentment when out in the woods and beyond.