One of the things that really helps to calm me when I’m feeling unsettled or when I’m feeling like I need clarity is to spend time outside, in nature. Taking a walk in the neighborhood or in the city is one thing, but taking a walk amongst the trees, separated from the hustle and bustle of daily life, is quite another, and is many times more therapeutic. The Japanese have a term for this kind of practice and it’s called “Shinrin-yoku” or “Forest Bathing”. It doesn’t actually mean taking a bath in the forest, although that sounds really nice, but it rather means spending time amongst trees by taking in the forest atmosphere and finding relaxation, sensory stimulation and grounding through this experience. I have always felt more calm after spending time amongst the trees…it’s as if we can communicate with the trees and Mother Earth on an unconscious level. There is something so grounding and calming when spending time in this environment that our bodies seem to understand.
Forest bathing can encompass many practices–there isn’t just one way to connect with nature. Walking is the most commonplace, but there are also such things as yoga, picnics, meditation, breathing exercises (pranayama), and doing art. One person may connect with walking, but another may connect with water coloring. It’s all a matter of grounding yourself in a manner that is most pleasurable to you. Scientific studies have demonstrated that a simple walk in nature can have more calming effects than a walk in the city. This really makes sense because when you are surrounded by cars, traffic, people, and the like your senses hit overdrive and you aren’t able to connect with your own inner self as well. In the forest, for example, there is not as much to distract you from connecting with Mother Earth on a one-on-one level. It’s an awakening practice and one that so many can benefit from.