Forrest Bathing - "Sit Spot" Solutions
What is the pull of nature? Why are we so drawn to walking in the woods, to seeing green leaves swaying overhead, to feeling the soft ground yielding underneath our feet, to hearing the birds call and respond, to smelling the damp earth and the sweet wildflowers? If you're like many people, you often yearn to be out in nature, especially if you spend most of your time inside.
The Science Behind a Walk in the Woods
It turns out there are some amazing scientific reasons why a walk in the forest feels so good. Trees contain essential oils that get released into the forest air. When we walk under and among trees, we breathe in these near-magical oils, and that does a world of good for our health. Right away, our energy levels increase by more than 30 percent. We sleep better and longer too; a two-hour walk among trees increases the amount of sleep by an average of 15 percent.
It's not just a coincidence that being in the forest puts you into such a good mood -- feeling less stressed, less anxious, less depressed, and less angry; studies show that being near trees significantly reduces the amount of stress hormones in our bodies. As if that's not enough, inhaling these tree oils is good for the heart, the circulation, and the immune system.
The Japanese Practice of Forest Bathing
The Japanese have taken this idea of gaining health benefits from being near trees and turned it into an art form. Instead of these benefits being a side effect of spending time in nature, they have become the reason to go to the forest in the first place. The Japanese call these health-seeking experiences in nature shinrin-yoku, which means "forest bathing."
Shinrin-yoku is an ancient practice in Japan, but it has become wildly popular with the recent publication of the bestselling book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li, a leading expert in the science of forest medicine.
How to be a Forest Bather
Dr. Li has specific advice about how you can gain the benefits of a forest bathing practice. Before you start, leave your phone and your camera behind (that alone can be both highly challenging and very beneficial for many people!). Start walking into the woods without any plan. Move slowly. Let your body go where it wants to go, and let it guide you to a spot that is just right for you, a place that you love, one that feels special.
Experience nature with all of your senses. Notice the different colors around you. Listen to the leaves rustling in the wind. Inhale deeply, and taste the air. Feel the texture of a tree trunk with your fingertips or the cold rushing water of a stream with your toes. Use your sixth sense too -- the feeling of joy and calmness that you experience when you connect fully with nature.
Sit Spot - A Practice of Awareness in Nature
Forest Bathing Without the Forest
There's good news for people who live far from the woods. You can gain many of the health benefits of forest bathing closer to home. Taking a walk in a local park or even placing more houseplants in your home or office will increase your exposure to nature's healing essential oils.
One way to increase the benefits of exposure to local greenery is to make it a deliberate, regular practice. In the video on this page, Katie Dutcher, founder of the Monterey Bay Meditation Studio, offers a simple guided meditation that can help you connect with the nature around you, which will ultimately help you connect more with yourself. This meditation can be done under a tree or sitting on a bench in a park. The key is to find a place that is easy for you to get to, so that you can visit it often. Over time, you will experience the changes in nature in your "sit spot," as well as experiencing and accepting the changes within yourself.
Nature at Walden Gathering
We are passionate about the healing power of nature here at the Walden Gathering. We bring people together in our private forest for transformative experiences. The natural surroundings inspire us to become more purposeful in our work and personal lives. Walking in the woods with our resident meditation guides, sitting in a discussion circle under our 200-year-old oak tree, and exploring ideas over a farm-to-table meal eaten in the fresh air all enhance creativity, create community, and spark exciting new projects that last long after the gathering is over.