The first source of the benefits of forest bathing are phytoncides.
Walking in the forest exposes us to the forest’s natural aromatherapy. Phytoncides are the natural oils within plants and are part of a tree’s defence system, protecting it from pests and diseases. These same phytoncides are partly responsible for the benefits. The main components of phytoncides are terpenes, which include D-limonene (smells lemony), Alpha-pinene (has a fresh, piney scent), Beta-pinene (smells herby, like basil or dill) and Camphene (smells of turpentine, a resinous smell)
The second source of the benefits of forest bathing are mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness and meditation helps us switch from our sympathetic nervous system, or ‘fight and flight’, to our parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest and digest’. If you already practice mindfulness and meditation, you will know that the key to calming the mind down is to focus on your breath. However, it can sometimes be difficult just to focus on the breath. Nature provides many subjects for us comfortably and happily to focus on and helps us “be in the present”. Remember the sight, sound, smell, feel and taste sensory exercises I introduced earlier? They help us re-connect with nature. After all, humans have spent 99.9% of time in history in a natural (rather than urban) environment making nature a place where humans instinctively feel relaxed and comfortable.
So next time you are in the forest or woodland, see if you can slow down your walking pace and take time to notice what is around you.
Or to slow down fully, let a forest bathing guide help you do the thinking. Two to three hours of forest bathing every four weeks replenishes the benefits of forest bathing.
There are many places you can practice forest bathing.
Forestry England is one source that shares locations of woodlands near you. The National Trust has a wealth of locations to forest bathe. If you are near the Surrey Hills, Hinoki Forest Bathing provides guided forest bathing sessions, including sunrise and sunset sessions, that finish with a Japanese influenced woodland tea ceremony.
Let nature replenish and care for you and in turn be inspired to care for nature.
By Lisa Duncan, HINOKI Forest Bathing in the Surrey Hills