Emre Guven

Why forest bathing and tree hugging is the new wellbeing trend that will boost your mental health

Time to get stuck into nature. Pronto.

24 Jun 2019

Remember the garden Kate Middleton designed at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show? It was supposedly inspired by the Japanese art of forest bathing.

If you’ve wondered what exactly forest bathing is, it was translated from the term Shinrin-Yoku which is a form of sensual immersion, gentle movement, meditations and simple yogic breathing, each attuned to the time of day, season and weather.

It’s known as ‘nature therapy’ is centred around wellness by escaping the hustle and bustle of an urban environment. Forest bathing helps you focus on your key senses and surroundings which might mean hugging trees, smelling plants, breathing in fresh woodland smells and listening to chirpy birds.

And forest bathing has actually been proven to make you happier, calmer and therefore improving your mental health. In Japan it’s seen as a preventive health care technique as it increases your serotonin levels, boosts your immune system and has a positive effect on blood pressure and energy levels. Basically, it’s a kind of wellness miracle that we should all be doing.

Of course, we all kind of knew this already. We’re constantly being told that mental wellbeing is aided when we spend more time outdoors and luckily, here in the UK we are surrounded by some of the most incredible green spaces.

Thankfully, there are plenty of places you can try it. The team at the Spread Eagle Hotel in Sussex run a 24-hour forest bathing experience with Swedish teacher Helena Skoog who was born and raised in the forests of Sweden and has spent the last four years living off-grid in ancient forestry in Sussex. The forest walk will see you become completely immersed in the surroundings, finished with a two-hour rejuvenating yoga session.

And while this kind of experience is an ideal way to try forest bathing, Dr. Qing Li of the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo suggests that you can absorb the therapeutic effects of forest bathing simply with a walk in a woodland area - you just need to use your senses to engage in your surroundings. Nature photography, den-building, painting and star-gazing are all ways that will help you to connect.

Just make sure you the ‘do not disturb’ setting on your phone switched on.