For many, the Autumn signals new beginnings, but the return to work, school and our normal routine can leave us feeling drained.
“Forest bathing” is the latest lifestyle trend. A form of ‘Nature Therapy’, it involves using all the senses to enjoy the forest – from listening to peaceful woodland sounds or birdsong, enjoying the scent of the trees, leaves and breathing in the fresh, clean air, to observing the shapes and shadows cast by the dappled sunlight filtering through from the canopies above.
As more of us seek wholesome ways to be mindful, unwind and disconnect, forest bathing could be the perfect remedy for burnt-out Brits looking to escape the stresses of modern life. And with 3.17 million hectares of woodland in the UK, we certainly have no shortage of forests to explore.
Originating in Japan in the 1980s and growing in popularity in the UK over the past twelve months, forest bathing is an established trend in Sweden, known as ‘Skogsbad’. Here, Catharina Björkman, lifestyle expert at Swedish wood burning stove brand Contura, shares her tips to help Brits enjoy the benefits of forest bathing this autumn.
“Immersing yourself in nature is both refreshing and rejuvenating”, says Catharina. “The outdoors is the perfect place to let the stresses of the week slip away.
“While it can be tempting to seek refuge indoors as the nights close in and temperatures begin to drop, autumn is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the natural world thanks to the fresh air, busy wildlife, and wonderfully colourful foliage.
“And after a hectic September following the return to work and school, most of us are likely in need of some ‘me time’.”
Put your phone down
Ideally you should leave your phone at home, but switching your phone off is a good start… You won’t be able to enjoy your environment if you’re receiving notifications, answering phone calls, or checking in on emails or social media. Luckily, the woods are an ideal location for a digital detox as you’re unlikely to get much phone signal!
There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy the sensation of immersing yourself in nature, however, you should start by slowing down both physically and mentally. Clear your mind of everyday stresses by taking the time to notice the world around you. Take pleasure in the small things; the feel of the ground and crunch of the leaves beneath your feet, the different scents of damp earth, plants, trees and flowers, and the sounds of birds, insects and woodland creatures.
Remember to relax
Forest bathing will help you clear your mind and prepare you for the week ahead, but only if you remember to relax. Breathe deeply and don’t be afraid to shut your eyes and enjoy the peacefulness of your surroundings. Sit on the forest floor or take a gentle stroll to really enjoy the natural environment.
Quieten the mind
If you’re struggling to silence the juggernaut of thoughts in your head, you can try listening to gentle music or guided meditation to help clear your mind. In this instance phones are allowed, though you should switch off notifications, so you aren’t distracted. Try apps such as Headspace or Calm for 15-minute sessions.
Struggling to find the time?
Whilst in its purest form, forest bathing is done on an individual basis, there’s nothing to say that you can’t enjoy the outdoors as a couple or in a group. When was the last time you grabbed a group of friends or family and headed outdoors for a good walk in the woods? Perhaps, as a scaled back option you can add a walk through a park as part of your commute or daily lunchtime stroll? There’s nothing better than a refreshing walk while enjoying the natural beauty of the season. Or why not get that deck-chair back out of the shed and enjoy a cup of tea in your garden while noticing the changes brought by autumn? Don’t forget to wrap up warm!
For more information on Contura, visit www.contura.eu