Why More Seniors are Taking Up Forest Bathing—and How You Can Too!

When you hear the term forest bathing, you probably conjure the image of a sun-dappled pool in the midst of towering trees with intrepid explorers discovering and bathing in these wilderness gems. Sounds divine, right? But, unfortunately, not very accessible for seniors! 

Luckily, this practice requires neither a physical forest nor actual bathing. Much like the trend of flaneuring we introduced you to last year, forest bathing is about relaxation and natural beauty. Anyone can forest bathe regardless of age, physical condition or geographic location. 

What is forest bathing?

Forest bathing is likely new to you, but the practice has been around for some time. In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries coined the term shinrin-yoku to describe the practice of absorbing nature with one’s senses.

Again, this doesn’t literally involve bathing. The term simply refers to soaking in elements of nature, whether you’re smelling a pine tree, listening to a birdsong, or observing an intricate leaf. You figuratively bathe your senses in your natural surroundings.

Forest bathing is not necessarily about breaking a fitness record, either. While forest bathing can be about fitness, this practice is mostly focused on mindfulness. The idea is to be present in your surroundings and notice the natural beauty in everything you see. Sit down on a bench in your local park in the warm sunshine. That’s it—you’re forest bathing!

And you don’t even need to live near a magnificent forest. You can forest bathe wherever you are in nature. Whether you’re opening your senses to the tree that grows on your city street or the flowers in your window box, connect with the bits of nature around you wherever you go and you’ve become a forest bather.

What are the benefits of forest bathing?

Forest bathing is a great way to detach from the world around you, take time for yourself, and recenter. Here are a few ways forest bathing can help you improve your outlook on life.

Benefit 1. Mood lifting

Nature’s simple and beautiful experiences have the profound effect of clearing your mind and lifting your spirits. There’s nothing like the sensation inspired by a gentle breeze or a fragrant flower to melt anxieties away.

Benefit 2. Increases natural awareness

Sixty-six percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, making appreciation of nature all the more important. City living comes with an abundance of advantages and perks, but nothing can replace the soothing effect of the outdoors.

How to forest bathe

There’s no right or wrong way to forest bathe, so you can pick what feels right for you. Here are a few opportunities to consider:

  • Take a walk in your local park,
  • Hang a bird feeder outside a window to birdwatch,
  • Stop to smell flowers along streets and in fields,
  • Plant a garden of fragrant herbs in your backyard,
  • Stand outside during a light rain shower, or
  • Look up at the stars.

Tips for forest bathing

Of course, this practice isn’t as easy as you might think. Truly disconnecting and letting go of the worries of the world is difficult to do, even when surrounded by nature’s beauty. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Tip 1. Slow down

If you’re walking, move at a slow pace. Observe everything happening around you and don’t disturb the natural peace with your movements.

Tip 2. Turn off your phone

You must be present in body and mind, and our phones are distracting. They pull us away from the moment and give us easy ways to entertain ourselves. Turn off your phone, and you’ll notice exquisite details in nature you didn’t notice before.

Tip 3. Take deep breaths

Take deep breaths during forest bathing. Steadying your breathing gets you in harmony with your surroundings so you can feel peaceful and in sync with nature.

Now that you know a little bit about this wonderful activity, go out and give forest bathing a try! You’ll learn about nature and yourself (they are the same thing, after all). We can’t wait to hear all about it!

Pete Blasi