What is Forest Bathing?

The primary goal of Forest Bathing, Shinrin-yoku or Forest Therapy is to support the wellness and health of participants through guided immersive experiences in forests and other naturally healing environments and to help them reconnect with nature and the more-than-human world.

Forest Bathing sessions are gentle walks with a guide providing instructions - referred to as invitations - for sensory opening activities along the way. These walks follow a standard sequence, as defined by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. Each walk begins with establishing embodied contact with the present moment and place, followed by a series of connective invitations, mobilizing the power of the senses, often adapted to the location and the needs of participants. These may be followed by wander time and/or sit spot. The walks end with a tea ceremony, sharing tea made from foraged local plants and possibly reflecting on the experience and/or listening to melodic zen percussion.

Forest Therapy walks are not hikes in the traditional sense, as an entire walk is typically 3 to 4 hours in duration and often covers no more than a 1,5 km distance. In that short distance, most people experience contact with nature in a much deeper way than they ever have prior to the walk. On Forest Therapy walks, people have a wide range of experiences, some of which they feel are significant, even profound. The guide is trained to be a supportive witness of these experiences.

Benefits of Forest Bathing 

Guided Forest Bathing consists of a brief, seemingly simple journey. For all its apparent simplicity, it often surprises people with its transformative power. Some of the empirically demonstrated physical, mental and spiritual benefits include:

  • reduced stress & increased sense of relaxation
  • kick-starting creativity
  • improved and stabilized moods
  • boosted immune system functioning
  • increase in the count of body's Natural Killer cells (NK)
  • reduced blood pressure
  • stabilized blood glucose levels
  • improved sleep
  • accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • sharper cognition, greater mental clarity, increased focus
  • increased happiness, pleasure in life, sense of well-being
  • improved relationships, including the relationship with the more-than-human world

Some of the research on the health benefits of Forest Therapy listed above can be found here.

"Forest therapy is a relaxed way of reconnecting with nature and your (deeper) self. It’s a necessity for everyone…especially in these times." - participant feedback

Why guided?

A Forest Therapy Guide facilitates gentle walks, providing instructions - referred to as invitations - for sensory opening activities along the way. Forest Therapy guides are trained to enhance sensory perception, facilitating connection with place, body, nature and the more-than-human world. This is what we can call opening the doors. They are trained to slow people down, help them turn off the stream of habitual thinking and establish embodied contact with the present moment. They work in partnership with Nature and also have a function of a supportive witness, enabling participants to experience whatever the natural environment has to offer to them at the moment, without interfering and disturbing this process. The forest is the therapist, the guide opens the doors.

Guided walks are structured in three stages, known as connection, liminal space/time, and incorporation. The first stage (connection) uses sensory connection to shift the awareness away from ordinary preoccupations primarily characterized by thinking. Focusing on our senses gives a steady stream of input from here and now - the present moment and place. By reaching this, participants enter the second stage of the walk: liminal space and time, a state that is comparable to walking mindfulness meditation. In liminality, there is a heightened potency in the ways we are in communication with the world around us. The last stage of the walk is called incorporation, when we incorporate the forest by sharing tea made from local plants en start to re-enter ordinary life again.