If a person bathes in the forest, and no one is around to see it, did it really happen?

According to Web MD and National Geographic, yes, it did really happen! But wait, what exactly is forest bathing?

Forest bathing (shrinrin-yoku) is the act of ‘bathing’ or basking in the forest using your senses. When I first read the definition of forest bathing, I thought I was a seasoned forest bather, but I was wrong. Forest bathing does not come from things like hiking, skiing, or exercising your dog. It is a much simpler act; slowly walking or sitting in the woods and bathing in the phytoncides.

What in the world are phytoncides?
Phytoncides are the substance released from plants & trees that create the ‘aroma’ of the forest. Recent studies have shown that phytoncides lower inflammation, protect your brain health, and boost the cells in your body that fight off infections and prevent cancer. Forest bathing also has been shown to lower cortisol levels (the chemical produced during stressful times), anxiety, fatigue and depression in adults. Even better, the benefits can last up to a month.

Why should I? it’s cold outside…
We are experiencing the bitter cold that typically accompanies January and February in Wisconsin. And with that increase in windchill often comes a decrease in the desire to be outside. However, this is the perfect time to give forest bathing a shot because you only need to be in your woods for as little as 15 minutes to experience the health benefits associated with phytoncides and forest bathing. A less windy and warmer day could be the perfect time to connect with your woods and give this a try.

After reading about forest bathing I decided to give it a try. I found my favorite spot in our woods and tried to channel my younger self who could sit next to that creek for hours and write in a journal. It was hard to focus on not focusing on anything at first, but after a few minutes my thoughts slowed down and I was able to reflect. I noticed the large thicket of brush I was planning to clear last year and thought about how I could incorporate that into my late spring plans. Once I came up with a mental timeframe I decided it was time to head back to the house. I checked my phone clock and realized I had been sitting there (in snowpants) for about 12 minutes. Although it wasn’t the full 15 and even though I didn’t feel any different immediately I still ended up having a great day out in the woods.

During this exercise you could use the quiet and fresh air to think about your woods and how you used them in the last year. Are there trees that you planned to cut but ran out of time? Do you have fond memories from this past deer season where your stand is still hanging? Or maybe you planned to get out and walk the property more but, again, you ran out of time. Now is a great time to reflect on past times you have spent in your woods and think about ideas or goals you have for the upcoming season in your woods, whatever that may look like.

Some tips on winter bathing:
– Turn your cell phone on do not disturb or mute all notifications. This will allow you to take photos or journal your thoughts without the distraction of notifications.
– Wear warm layers and sturdy boots
– Engage your senses
– Walk slowly and stop often

So get out in your woods and take in all the phytoncides you can get! If you want to check your trails or trail cams, set aside a few minutes to try this exercise and clear your mind before you get to work. If you try it and enjoy it, share your experiences with us on the Learn About Your Land Facebook page.