I am sitting on my back-porch step in my “sit spot” with my coffee the other spring morning just watching and listening to the birds chirping and enjoying their breakfast of black sunflower seeds. Suddenly they went silent. A minute later a hawk flew right in front of me into my mighty oak tree. I sat un-moving in awe as he/she flew here and there from tree to bush to another tree. Silence. After 5 minutes, the hawk flew away and in 10 minutes, the birds were back chirping and enjoying their breakfast. I sat in awe of the every day drama that is a bird’s life. I was practicing forest bathing or forest therapy. It inexplicably made me happy while wondering how the birds all knew before I did.
Forest Therapy is inspired by the Japanese practice of “shinrin yoku”, which translates to “forest bathing,” which is defined as wide group of techniques and practices
that are used to improve one’s emotional, mental, or physical health by immersing one’s self in nature or other outdoor setting. Forest Bathing specifically is a form of nature therapy that incorporates mindfulness in nature with a variety of relaxing exercises or activities. Studies have shown that Forest Bathing has many benefits, ranging from the production of germ fighting cells, to reductions in inflammation, brightened moods, better sleep, and even clearer skin. We all know the importance of keeping our bodies moving, so it should also come as no surprise that Forest Bathing aids in lowering chances of heart attack and diabetes.
Development of a “sit spot” is one of the behaviors experienced on a Forest Therapy walk. It is a gentle practice that involves moving very slowly and mindfully through nature, soaking it in with all of the senses. It is a relaxing experience that connects people to natural environments through sensory-based invitations. It is not hiking in the traditional sense – rather a “wander”.
An entire walk is typically 2-21/2 hours in duration and often covers no more than a quarter mile distance. In that short distance, most people experience contact with nature in a much deeper way that they ever have prior to the walk. The streams and forest at Bucks Audubon are the perfect environment to re-experience nature at its sensory best.
This spring Bucks County Audubon Society will be hosting several sessions of Forest Bathing in April, May and June of 2019. Register for one (or all!) of these great, guided walks by clicking here. Interested in trying out a sample of a Forest Bathing walk? Join us on April 13th, 2019 at our Earth Day Festival for an introduction to Forest Bathing. I will be leading an early morning mindfulness walk at 10:15 that will act as sample of what to expect during one of my programs here at Bucks Audubon.
-Sharon Lohse, guest blogger and Certified Forest Therapist