Imagine the sound of rustling leaves and birds singing in the distance… a gentle breeze on your skin… the comforting earthy scent of moss and bark in the air… and the most beautiful shades of green everywhere you turn. Relaxing, isn’t it? This little mindfulness meditation-like introduction is just a small visualization of what shinrin-yoku or forest bathing is like.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Japan is a short walk away from Suiran, A Luxury Collection Hotel in Kyoto

What is shinrin-yoku?

Shinrin-yoku is a term coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982. It comes from the Japanese words shinrin (forest) and yoku (bath). Together, it translates to “forest bathing” or “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” It refers to the psychological and physiological exercise of immersing one’s self and senses in nature and living presently in a natural setting.

The view of Mount Fuji and the surrounding forest
View of the forest and Mount Fuji from Hoshinoya Fuji

Shinrin-yoku’s original purpose was to serve as an all-natural remedy to burnout while simultaneously inspiring residents to reconnect with and aid in the conservation of Japanese forests. While Japan is credited for the term shinrin-yoku, the concept behind the activity isn’t at all new, and people from all over the world have been doing it—consciously and subconsciously for centuries. There truly is something about being surrounded by nature that just comforts us from within and we can’t help but be naturally drawn to it.

Huge boulder and walking trail with slabs for steps
A quiet walking trail near Chalets at Blackheath
A couple walking on a stone slab walking trail
Walking trails offer safer routes for forest bathing

How do you do it?

There’s no equipment required for this form of ecotherapy and no strict way of doing it. One may even say that forest bathing is an intuitive experience! However, here are some steps and tips to get you started:

  • Choose your forest. You can forest bathe alone, with a friend, or even on a guided excursion.
  • Bring as little as possible. The fewer distractions, the better! As tempting as it is to bring your phone or camera to take stunning photos, you ought to literally release yourself from the weight of anything you don’t need. You can definitely bring a water bottle though.
  • Start walking. Whether you’re following a trail or following where your senses tell you to go (don’t get lost though!), start walking and don’t rush. Forest bathing isn’t meant to be a hike. It’s a low-impact mindfulness activity that allows—no, encourages you to connect with nature.
  • Live in the moment. This is where the mindfulness side of shinrin-yoku steps in. Slow down… Listen to the crunch of the leaves on the forest floor with every step you take. Take deep breaths as you allow your eyes to absorb all of the colours and textures around you.
  • Stillness and grounding. Really, you don’t even have to go into the middle of a forest to enjoy forest bathing. You can find a tranquil spot where you can sit, be still, and enjoy the quiet company of trees. We suggest you take your shoes off and feel the earth’s grounding energy course through you.
Barefoot woman forest bathing in the Daintree Forest near a small waterfall
Daintree Ecolodge lets you experience the majesty of the Daintree Forest

This kind of mindfulness exercise can make time pass without you even knowing it, and in this fast-paced world, it’s a luxury we would love for you to experience! If you choose to go alone, remember to tell someone where you are going and for how long you will be away.

If you would like a wellness-oriental holiday and guided forest bathing excursions in amazing destinations, you’re going to love our Explore & Restore Wellness Holidays. Designed with your wellbeing in mind, these holidays will take you on a mindfulness journey while simultaneously spoiling you with unique cultural experiences. Destinations to choose from include the forests of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Our favourite part? You can customise your experience and choose to do as much or as little as you please while on holiday.

Pondok Santi Estate Wellness

The Benefits of Forest Bathing

A calming experience anyone can enjoy, forest bathing has proven scientific benefits such as lowering your blood pressure, regulating your heart rate, and countering cortisol (the stress hormone). A study even shows that spending even just 10-20 minutes in nature daily contributes to an overall increase in happiness and well-being while simultaneously reducing stress. In Japan, it’s even considered as a therapeutic form of preventative healthcare that helps improve sleep and decrease the development of insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

A flowing stream between boulders in the forest
A secluded spot near Shinta Mani Wild in Cambodia

Slowing down, dipping your toes into a flowing stream, hugging a tree, or even just laying on the forest floor can do wonders for your senses. You’ll be amazed at how just being still and taking in your surroundings can bring you to a place of bliss and calm. Not only does it help you reconnect with your inner self, it can also be an opportunity to share a new meaningful experience with your significant other.

A couple walking amidst coconut trees and a lush forest
A walking trail at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

Where can you go forest bathing?

You don’t have to be in Japan to experience the art of shinrin-yoku! At its core, you can do it anywhere there are trees as long as you consciously connect with your surroundings. Any place you choose can be a place of joy and wonder the second you live in the moment. We hope you feel inspired to take a break and experience the magic of mindfulness and shinrin-yoku.

For more inspiring destinations, check out our full collection of amazing retreats.

Image credit: Daintree Ecolodge

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Powered by copious amounts of caffeine, Tracy is a cat lady who loves island hopping in Asia. A writer by profession and an interior designer at heart, she loves synergistic aesthetics that breathe life and character into spaces. She finds inspiration from the grand and the mundane, and dreams of living by the beach.