“Forest bathing” does not actually refer to bathing in water; it means bathing in the sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the sound of leaves rustling overhead, the fresh, clean air to give us a sense of peace and serenity, and yes, even comfort. Such an experience can also ease stress and worries, help us to relax and to think more clearly.
Over a year into the pandemic, a really tough winter, social isolation and being cooped up, has most of us climbing the walls. It just may be the time to plan for some Spring “Forest Bathing” to restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.
The concept is derived from a practice in Japan. It is not exercise, or hiking, or climbing, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. It’s meant to be like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.
There are many free options, but if you think you’d benefit from a guided program, you can take advantage of a new Mohonk Preserve program called “Forest Bathing with Jane Dobson” which will take place on Saturdays, March 6, April 3 and May 1, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. This program will be 100% outdoors and masks are required. Ages 16 and up welcome and must be accompanied by an adult. No dogs allowed.
Wear layers and proper footwear. Registration is required and limited to 10 people. The cost per person for Mohonk Preserve members is $20 per session or $55/series. The cost for non-members is $23 per session, $62 for the series. For more information, visit www.mohonkpreserve.org/events calendar.
So, what about doing it yourself, the free way? In Gardiner, we are surrounded by natural beauty; forests, streams & rivers, mountains and valleys are literally within walking, if not quick driving, distance.
What’s more, humans have enjoyed the good feelings nature can provide us with for as long as people have walked the Earth. Even the naturalist, John Muir, wrote, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
Why else would we want to consider Forest Bathing? In general, the world has never been so divorced from nature. According to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors, and a 2014 report by the United Nations cautions that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities.
In addition, there is documented evidence that even a small amount of time in nature can have a positive impact on our health. A two-hour forest bath will help you to unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment and de-stress and relax you, and numerous studies have shown that forest bathing has real health benefits.
So how does one go about it? Find a spot in Gardiner; there are many trail heads and informal natural places in Gardiner to visit.
Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.
Spring is a time of rejuvenation. Enhance it with a forest bathing experience.