What is forest bathing?

I’m starting to offer Forest bathing in South Kerry this summer, or Shinrin-yoku, and the first question most people ask is “What is Forest Bathing?” I’ve been dreaming about sharing this form of meditative ecotherapy for so long, I’d forgotten that it’s not that well known!

Invented in Japan in the 1980s, forest bathing is time spent immersing yourself in a woodland area, connecting with the natural world in a mindful way. It encourages you to slow down and pay attention to nature at her own pace. You’re encouraged to open all the senses and fill your awareness with the myriad of details that we miss when we walk by quickly, with our heads full of whirling thoughts.

Since I was 15 years old, I have experienced periods of severe depression & bouts of severe fatigue but, without thinking about it, I’ve always known that being outside helped me feel calmer and more relaxed. Now in my 50s, I’ve spent the past decade exploring the impact of nature on my wellbeing and seeking it out regularly to help me regulate my nervous system. To just FEEL better in other words!

As well as benefitting our mental health, studies have shown that forest bathing increases our immune response, can accelerate healing and improves concentration and short-term memory. Personally, I feel it helps me feel like a child again, joyful and carefree. I find myself in awe at the sight of a raindrop balanced on the tip of a blade of grass, or following the movements of a small insect and quietly asking her how her day is going.

If you’d like to join me for a forest bathing experience, I’m offering a free session as part of the Discover Derrynane Festival in South Kerry on Saturday June 15th, 2024. If you’ve missed it, please contact me to arrange your own personal forest bathing session in the area. I hope to see you under a tree soon!

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