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Dive Into Some Nature Therapy


Have you ever tried “forest bathing?”

No, it isn’t some new substitute for traditional hygiene practices. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy defines forest bathing as “a research-based framework for supporting healing and wellness through immersion in forests and other natural environments.”

So, how does one practice forest bathing, exactly? It couldn’t be simpler: Just get into a natural environment and allow nature to help you relax. Slow down and tune in. Submerse yourself in the smells, textures, sights, and sounds. As one writer has described it, simply “go to the woods, breathe deeply, be at peace.”

Research has shown that forest bathing can improve mood, sleep, attention, and creativity. Nature emits substances (oxygen and phytoncides) that are beneficial to humans. Breathing this air increases the number of cells in our blood that “combat infections and cancers.” Studies have shown that walking through a natural environment reduces blood pressure and stress hormones, significantly more than walking through urban areas – even when the walks require similar levels of physical exertion.

Best of all, this research-backed wellness booster is both all-natural, and free. But what if you don’t have access to a forest? Take another look at that definition above, and you’ll see that it includes “other natural environments” too. In other words, you don’t need a specific kind of natural environment. You can work with what’s available to you, whether that’s a forest, park, or beach, a backyard, or a patio garden.

Here’s a simple activity you might start with. It focuses on listening, but feel free to expand into other senses too.

  1. For this activity, find a place where you can mindfully listen to nature for a few minutes.
  2. Close your eyes and immerse yourself in the sounds that surround you—even if you think there aren’t many (at first).
  3. See if you can hear just one sound at a time. When you find one, keep your attention trained on it. Does it change the more you listen to it?
  4. Now, find a second sound…then a third…then a fourth.
  5. Finally, let them all sing together.