What is 'forest bathing' - and how can you try it yourself?

It's the latest travel trend all the way from Japan, but, er, what is it, exactly? Find out what it involves, how it all works, what to expect, and the best places to practice forest bathing...

8 mins

What is ‘forest bathing’?

What is ‘forest bathing’? (Shutterstock)

What is ‘forest bathing’? (Shutterstock)

It might sound New Age, but it’s the latest travel trend – new forest bathing experiences keep popping up across Britain’s wooded areas. It’s founded on the Japanese nature therapy, shinrin-yoku.

While that’s not a literal translation – there’s no soaking yourself in water – it is about immersing yourself in nature’s healing powers.

So, it’s just a fancy walk?

Touch an old oak tree (Dreamstime)

Touch an old oak tree (Dreamstime)

Well, yes. Kind of. Except there’s no specific destination in mind. Here, you’re fostering a deeper relationship with the space around you – keep things slow and relaxed.

Be extra mindful of your surroundings and notice exactly what is around you – meditate to gentle birdsong, smell fresh pine after rainfall, and touch old oaks.

How does forest bathing work? 

One of Japan's many shinrin-yoku forests (Dreamstime)

One of Japan's many shinrin-yoku forests (Dreamstime)

Japanese researchers developed the therapy in the 1980s, discovering that a two-hour forest bathing session had a number of wellness benefits, helping to bust stress and improve your mood and memory.

As a result, the government phased in shinrin-yoku as part of a public health programme. It really caught on – there are now 44 accredited shinrin-yoku forests in Japan.

How can I get involved in forest bathing? 

Anyone can get involved in forest bathing (Shutterstock)

Anyone can get involved in forest bathing (Shutterstock)

While you can go as part of a course/trip, the great thing about forest bathing is you can also just go out and do it on your own, for free, at a time, length and woods of your choosing.

A tech detox is a good start, maybe take a weekend and camp/lodge somewhere in the forest. Don’t just focus on what you can see and hear – the things that you can smell, touch and taste are important, too.

If you fancy company, you can also organise forest therapy walks and befriend other people benefiting from the practice.

3 places to go forest bathing

1. Japan 

Japan’s forests are the stuff of legend. 67 per cent of the country is wooded, making it an excellent place to start for forest-bathing newbies who want to tap into their creativity.

Visit the Totoro Forest in the Sayama Hills, which is said to have inspired the celebrated Japanese anime movie, My Neighbour Totoro.

2. UK

Ancient trees offer a bigger healing boost, so head to the centuries-old Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.

Many of its trees are hundreds of years old, including the Major Oak, Robin Hood’s former hideout if local folklore is to be believed.

3. Canada

The scent of cedar is a great stress-buster, so breathe in the fresh air in British Columbia’s Ancient Forest, where 1,000-yearold cedar trees populate the forest floor.

With miles of protected rainforest and a waterfall, it’s an atmosphere conducive to long meditative moments.

P.S. Just one more thing you should know...

The health benefits of forest bathing are endless (Shutterstock)

The health benefits of forest bathing are endless (Shutterstock)

The potential medical benefits of shinrin-yoku are endless – Japanese researchers are investigating to see if it will prevent physical illnesses in patients.

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