I went into the woods to do nothing – and was thrilled (Part 1)
When was the last time you did something for the first time? It wasn’t that long ago for me. I was in the woods. But not for jogging, mountain biking or hiking. I was just out in the woods, with no plan to do anything sporty.
I mean, I like to get moving and work up a sweat. What I don’t like at all is doing nothing. However, I also find that rushing around is becoming an increasing problem. I’m often already thinking about my next appointment instead of enjoying the coffee that’s right in front of me. It’s a terrible state to be in, the classic stress trigger.
When I first heard about the concept of “forest bathing,” I saw before my mind’s eye a swimming pool in the forest where I would do my lengths. In reality, forest bathing is the opposite: it’s all about experiencing the forest with all your senses, finding peace – and thus, ideally, doing something for your health. Forest bathing is in vogue, but it is based on an ancient Far Eastern tradition, the Shinrin-yoku, and has been the subject of scientific research in Japan since the 1980s. It took me a while to convince myself, because I thought, isn’t it a little silly?
But I really wanted to try it. I went into the woods and tried to make out what I was hearing. Which sound is the furthest away? The rustling of trees in the wind. Which one is closest? The crunching under my feet. What do I see when I look around? What do I smell when I stop still?
And what do I actually feel when I sit on a tree stump?
My first forest bathing session was a revelation. At first I was almost a little embarrassed to say so out loud, because of course the reason I experienced the forest walk so intensively was that I am not usually so attentive to my environment. When I’m out in town, I look at my mobile. If I do actually find myself in the woods, I associate being there with the need to get some exercise.
Others don’t need an old Far Eastern tradition to know that the forest is good for them. I needed it, but now I won’t forget it so soon. The concept of forest bathing is not a joke, but actually a science – I will tell you about it in my next blog post.