Need Some Serenity? Try a Walk in the Forest!
If you’ve never heard of forest bathing (also known as forest therapy), you might be surprised to learn that it’s not what you’d expect! This isn’t about taking a long soak in a tub surrounded by trees. The practice of Shinrin-Yoku, a.k.a. forest therapy, is a Japanese concept developed in the 1980s that has now made its way to the U.S. In fact, experts say its popularity today is where yoga was 30 years ago. Translation? It’s the next big way to calm your mind and feel less stressed.
Forest therapy is all about immersing yourself in the natural beauty and stillness of the woods. It’s about taking solitary walks through the trees and using your five senses to reconnect with nature. Similar to meditating, the practice helps you stay grounded in the present moment, reconnecting with your mind and body. Experts encourage you not to interact with your phone or talk to a friend while practicing the art—you don’t want to do anything that would disturb your peace of mind.
So how does one practice a session of forest therapy? It’s pretty easy: Go for a walk in the woods. Turn your phone to silent, grab a friend or loved one (or go solo while staying safe) and start soaking in the natural environment. Try to use all five senses by breathing in the air of the trees, noticing the damp mossy smells, listening to the rustle of animals and wind on the leaves, walking slowly to connect with every leaf crunching under your feet and visualizing the textures, shapes and colors of the forest.
Afterwards, you’ll notice a lot of benefits, including:
- Stress relief
- Increased self-awareness
- Inspired creativity
The other great part about Shirin-Yoku is that Michigan is an ideal place to practice. With more than 100 parks and 133 state forest campgrounds throughout the state (not to mention patches of woods all over), there are endless opportunities to go out and reconnect with the world and yourself.
Library card holders can access hundreds of Michigan’s state parks, historic sites, cultural attractions, campgrounds and recreation areas for free with the Michigan Activity Pass offered though MI Big Green Gym. The program is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Michigan Recreation and Park Association (mParks) and the Library Network.
Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan