In our previous article, we explained what Forest Bathing was and the fact that it is now a thing in Nigeria.
Paraphasing Dr Qing Li, from Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, forest bathing can decrease anxiety, depression and anger, and reduce stress to bring about a state of relaxation. Forest bathing is a good preventive medicine strategy whose effects are felt in a week after each experience. Honestly, it is something everyone needs to add to their calendar of events for each month because the benefits are so worth it.
But how does one Forest Bathe? What do you do in Forest Bathing?
First, you need to prepare for the activity by
1. Having a routine of being outdoors for at least two a day. Take a brisk walk, get mindfully immersed in your surrounding with occasional pit stops i.e. moments of stillness along the way.
2. Knowing you need multiple sessions of forest bathing to see any health improvements from this therapeutic exercise.
3. Ensuring you plan your trip with a certified forest guide who knows what forest bathing is and how it should be done.
4. Keeping a chart of your vitals to monitor your stress levels and other positive health changes. Also, speak with a physician to help track down any psychological changes you may have after each forest bathing session.
5. Taking proper precaution such as having sunscreen protection, bug spray or insect repellent and allergy medication for pollen irritation. Also, avoid technological distractions during the exercise by leaving your tech. devices behind or putting them on silence.
*Remember the aim of forest bathing is to improve your sensory awareness and receive the physical and mental health benefits basking in nature has to offer.
Next, you need to do the following when you get to the forest:
6. Find a suitable location for forest bathing.
Choose an easily accessible forest you can visit any time that has an obstacle-free, navigable trails. Make sure the forest is engaging with lots of interesting features you can touch and see. E.g. different tree species, flowing pond or stream, scented flowered meadow, dense forest canopy or a combination of features that provide light and sound diversity.
7. Stand still for about 15-20 minutes.
Acknowledge your body in the surrounding space. Don’t just get into the forest and stomp around. Note your surrounding, list what you notice both the visible and invisible, close your eyes and feel what’s happening within and outside your body.
8. Breathe in the forest air.
Notice the smells in the forest. Let your smell preference determine the location you choose so you can enjoy the experience. Inhale deeply the scents of the forest flowers, trees, moist earth, water, and the clean forest air in the wind.
9. Walk forward mindfully by walking quietly and slowly to the rhythm of nature.
When you walk, move your feet to the rhythm of your breathing i.e. raise a leg up when you inhale and foot down when you exhale.
10. Have a reflective audible conversation.
Once you are comfortable with your body’s movement in the forest environment, speak to the animals, plants and objects in the forest. Reflecting out loud works best if you are forest bathing with a group of people. Speak out what you observe rather than reciting it internally.
11. Sit quietly in a spot for at least 20minutes and observe your surroundings.
Make sure it is a spot that does not disturb the habitat. You can sit on a fallen log, a tree stomp, a sandy dry or grassy green patch, etc.
12. Return to mindful walking.
Going from walking to sitting and vice versa is a technique that allows you maximise the mindfulness experience of forest bathing. So don’t despair.
13. Conclude your session but don’t return to your daily routine immediately.
If you went with a group, this could involve talking to them about your personal experience during the exercise. If you went alone, you could take a meal or drink tea/juice (not a mindful/reflective eating, just normal eating pattern).
In this era of instant messaging and digitization, we need forest bathing now more than ever to learn reconnection. It doesn’t matter if Nigerians are in short supply of forest bathing guides or nature therapists, we all need to stay in touch with nature. Alan Watts said, “You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.”
Featured image source: The Guardian Nigeria