Why forest bathing is the latest travel trend you need to know about
Step into nature and wash away life stresses - and no, you don't have to get wet.
- March 2019
Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, has long been important to the people of Japan but it was officially introduced as part of the government’s national health program during the 1980s. Also known as nature therapy, the concept could be considered a way to wash away life’s stresses in a forest atmosphere – with no water necessary. Today, it has spread into the mainstream, appearing globally from Sydney to New York.
Typically done accompanied by a qualified guide (although you can do it alone, too), forest bathing involves walking slowly amidst nature and engaging in optional healing activities to slow down and open up all of your senses. This antidote to life in the fast lane does not require you to have a high level of fitness, just the ability to focus on being fully present in nature (that means leaving your smartphone behind).
With the 21st century seeing us busier than ever – partly due to our 24/7 relationship with digital technology and reluctance to “switch off” – forest bathing offers the perfect remedy for our often highly stressful lives.
According to nature and forest therapy guide Kara Spence of Tasmania’s specialised tour company, Nature. Be In It., connecting with nature is a deep human need. “We seem to have forgotten that we are utterly dependent on nature for our survival,” she says.
Forest bathing can improve overall feelings of wellbeing by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, reducing production of the stress hormone cortisol and boosting your immune system. These positive effects are believed to be due, somewhat, to the fragrant organic compounds (phytoncides) emitted by trees and plants, as well as the combination of other soothing factors, including taking the time to simply slow down.
Most walks usually go for a minimum of two hours. Be prepared to notice things you may not have before – intoxicating and rejuvenating forest smells, the calming sounds of bird song or a bubbling stream, vibrant colours and unique patterns of nature, and maybe even some roaming native wildlife.
Perhaps it’s more important now than ever to reconnect with nature, embrace life in the slow lane and enjoy the multitude of benefits that come along with it.
Where to try forest bathing
With Nature. Be In It., you can try a unique sensory forest bathing experience in a stunning setting just outside of Hobart, engaging your senses with a series of activities, including sampling fresh bush tea and local produce.
Barefoot Wellbeing offer a range of health events that feature forest bathing and nature connection walks both in city locations, such as Sydney’s Centennial Park and the Australian Botanic Gardens, plus other areas around NSW.