Many people would like to be able to practice mindfulness or a form of meditation but find it difficult to stop the constant chatter going on in their minds. The aim of guided ‘Forest Bathing’ is to take you through a series of short meditations within nature, focusing on reconnecting with yourselves and the landscape around you. Science shows that spending 10 minutes in nature will boost your immune system for up to seven days afterwards and there are many ways you can find your 10 minutes. One way you can do this is by ‘befriending a tree’.
You can be inside or outside but find a flower, tree, bush, vegetable – anything nature-based that you are drawn to. You are now going to spend 10 minutes with it – set an alarm on your phone so you don’t need to keep checking time if that helps you focus. Start off by spending a few minutes seeing what it looks like from a distance; see what you think it will feel like and then explore the textures (with your eyes closed even better); see what it smells like; see who else is living with it or living under it. Once you have started to befriend it, spend 5 minutes just sitting with it and if you find your mind starting to wander, keep bringing it back to what is right in front of you – this final part we call a ‘sit-spot’.
The Health Benefits
There is many elements behind what makes Nature and Forest Therapy so effective on our physical and mental health:
Trees keep themselves healthy by showering themselves in their own essential oils called phytoncides. When a tree is attacked by a fungus or other organism, the tree diffuses these phytoncides into the air and they seek out and kill the attacking fungus and bacteria. Phytoncides are not just for trees and can also be found in house plants, fruit and vegetables so you do not need to be outside to benefit! In addition, when we spend time amongst phytoncides our own first line defenders, NK or Natural Killer cells increase significantly, even seven days after we have been exposed. These cells are critical to our immune system, they provide rapid responses to virus infected cells and tumour formations. So bathing in the natural oils of the forest is truly good for our bodies!
Back in the 80’s…
Shinrin-yoku all began in Japan in the 1980’s, when the Japanese were transitioning to a tech-based economy. This meant that a lot of people were spending a considerable time inside and the government noticed a huge spike in cancer and autoimmune diseases. So, they began several research projects to figure out how to combat the epidemic. One project asked a very simple question; what happens when human beings are exposed to forest environments? They discovered the magic of phytoncides and the effects these have on the human body and thought this was rather incredible, that simply going into the forest can be considered a preventative treatment for very serious diseases and so Shinrin-yoku was born.
Repetitive patterns found in nature are known as fractal patterns - we find these aesthetically pleasing and they have been found to be stress reducing in humans. When looking at patterns in nature an easy starting point is a tree - the trunk rises from the earth with branches shooting from the trunk, smaller branches shoot from the larger ones, then small twigs, spindly twigs and so on, this repetitive pattern of branch on branch, twig upon twig is a fractal pattern; the wooden scales of a simple pine cone, spirally arranged around a central stalk; the spiral of a snail shell; unfurling of a fern or the bloom of a flower – all repetitive patterns in nature that reduce our stress levels.
Green and Blue
Green is a quiet colour, our eyes need to do little to be able to process it, green strikes the eye in such a way no adjustment is required and we therefore find it restful. Being in the centre of the spectrum, it is the colour of balance - a more important concept than many people realise. When the world about us contains plenty of green and may appear ‘lush’, this indicates the presence of water and little danger of famine, so on a primitive level we are reassured by green. Blue is peaceful, calm and gentle, blue has tremendous power to manage stress. It's a very soothing colour that helps calm your mind, slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and reduce anxiety. We of course find blue in the sky above and the water below us.
More about Highland Quietlife to help you be more mindful on the land…
During our guided Forest Bathing sessions, the land we walk on supports us to reconnect and relax and we always work on the basis of 'reciprocity' - the process of exchanging things for mutual benefit and rewarding kind actions - when out in nature this simply means the land supports us and we in turn treat it with the respect it deserves and show gratitude.
We are incredibly lucky in Scotland to have the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Our group sizes are small, but I still always let landowners know (where applicable) if we will be running a session. I also give 20% of any income back to that landowner or chosen charity – in 2022 this totalled £225.30.
Highland Quietlife is working towards our Green Tourism Business Scheme accreditation over the winter of 2022/23.
We are also super proud to be members of and support the Scottish LGBTI+ Rainbow Mark. The trees never judge, one of the reasons I feel so comfortable within them, and we want our Forest Bathing sessions to be a safe and welcoming space for everyone.