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What is forest bathing? How to get started on TikTok's mindfulness trend

Forest bathing is quickly growing on TikTok, with millions of videos of avid forest bathers circulating the app.

And it seems like it has true power to lessen the pressures of the world, and gives you time to de-stress, centre yourself and escape from the noise for a while. Sign us up.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, forest bathing is a type of mindfulness and meditation that can help people to de-stress using the nature around them. It goes all the way back to 1980s Japan.

The Japanese practice is a process of relaxation involving trees, originally known as ‘shinrin yoku’ – which directly translates to ‘forest bathing’.

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Forest bathing doesn’t literally have to happen in a forest.

In plain terms, forest bathing is a simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, achieving mindfulness by observing nature around you, while concentrating on breathing deeply.

Most people who use mindfulness to manage stress and anxiety are familiar with using deep breathing exercises to centre ourselves. Well, forest bathing is just that, but doing so amongst the trees for added health benefits.

Ellie, a 25-year-old writer, tried forest bathing after seeing a programme about it on Countryfile.

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘At first I felt a little silly – but then there was something deeply liberating about the absurdity of it. And then I felt this sense of completeness. I felt held by everything around me – the sunlight, the trees with their crown shyness, the rustling through the ferns that could have been a deer or a magpie or a grass snake.

‘Looking up was the best part, not at the leaves but the spaces between them, at the green-gold stars of light and breathing, really breathing it in. It felt like a factory reset. And then I walked on, and felt a little better – like I’d put on a more comfortable pair of shoes, or taken off an extra layer on a hot day,’ she adds.

Florence, a 32-year-old IT specialist, has also taken to forest bathing as a way to manage her stress at work.

She says: ‘I have a really full on job and sometimes it gets the better of me. But I saw tutorials on how to forest bathe on TikTok and thought I’d give it a go.’

Now, Florence tries to forest bathe at least once a week.

She adds: ‘It brings me back to me. Not work me, but me. There is something so liberating about forest bathing that’s so hard to describe. Everyone should try it at least once.’

Studies into forest bathing conducted in Japan have found that the practice can help people:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Boost immune system
  • Improve concentration levels
  • Increase energy levels

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It seems people can boost their immune system through forest bathing, too, because trees produce antimicrobial oils.

Clinical studies have shown these oils have have antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which help us prevent, fight off and build immunity to illnesses.

The same research found that regular, leisurely forest walks reduced cortisol (which causes stress and anxiety) by 12.4% per cent compared to urban walks.

Participants in the study also reported having better moods.

In another study, participants saw a 50% improvement in creative problem solving after three days immersed in nature. And this is incredibly important, since creativity plays a huge part in our overall mood and mental wellbeing.

Forest therapy practitioner Delyth Johnson says forest bathing can help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and that kind of support is ‘hugely needed’.

‘Other benefits include improvements in short term memory; restored mental energy, increase in concentration and sharper thinking,’ she adds.

How to get started

To get started, Delyth suggests sitting under a tree with a timer for 10 minutes.

She says: ‘All you need to do is look, listen and notice. Close your eyes for 10 minutes and focus on listening, what do you hear?’

Then, she suggests trying a mindful walk.

She adds: ‘Set a timer for 15 minutes and walk very slowly. Focus on looking around and up, pausing, touching, you can of course try literally tree hugging.’

Forest bathing might feel a bit silly at first, so Delyth advises finding a place that feels comfortable to you, that you know well.

She continues: ‘Maybe invite some friends along with you to try it as well. Follow what invites you whether it’s sitting under a tree, or lying down on the ground.’

Most people have access to at least a little patch of woodland near their home, so if this mindfulness practice has so much to offer, it’s worth giving a go.

Who knew trees could be so powerful?

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