The Japanese notion of forest bathing distills the health perks of a walk in the woods.
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Credit: Aaron Peterson

Intuition (and science) tells us that time outdoors is good for mind, body and soul, especially when physical activity is involved. But a specific way of being in nature has taken hold in Japan and spread—shinrin-yoku— loosely translated as forest bathing. 

The practice usually involves sensory, mindful strolls led by pros. "These walks include a series of invitations that allow participants to slow down, relax, observe, interact and reconnect with nature," says Janie Macomber Grillo, a certified forest therapy guide who owns Midwest Forest Bathing in St. Charles, Illinois. Her experiences last about three hours and cover a half-mile or less.

Forest bathing originated as a response to health concerns about increased indoor screen time. Physicians in Japan now prescribe it, and studies have confirmed the benefits. In addition to decreasing stress, Grillo says, "breathing in phytoncides, which are produced by trees, has been shown to increase special white blood cells (which help with immunity)."

How to Start Forest Bathing

Ready to plunge in? Visit natureandforesttherapy.earth to find guided experiences near you. Or conduct your own experience at home, in what Grillo calls a sit-spot, with these tips.

Pick a Place

Find a spot where you feel some connection to nature, whether it's a forest, nature preserve, beach or indoor conservatory. Or sit in your garden or among houseplants.

Get Comfy

Forest bathing is more about being still and mentally present than going on a heart-pumping walk. The choice to sit or stand is up to you. Just make sure that you feel completely at ease.

Become Aware

With eyes closed, take several slow, deep breaths. Note what you feel, hear and smell. Open your eyes and imagine that you're seeing everything in front of you for the first time. What are you noticing?