One with the Woods: An Introduction to Forest Bathing

Kirk Meyers, News Editor

Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” is a practice originating from Japan that involves taking in the forest through the senses.
The practice has been shown to result in various physical and psychological benefits.
The physical effects of forest bathing can be seen in lowered heart rate and blood pressure, a boosted immune system and reduced sleeplessness. Likewise, psychological benefits include reduced stress and depression, increased liveliness and better concentration.

The Six Steps of Forest Bathing

Step 1:

This week’s forest bathing destination was Shoreline’s Shoreview Park. Photo: Kirk Meyers / The Ebbtide

Leave your phone, camera and any other distractions behind so that you can be fully present in the moment.

Step 2:

Leave your goals and expectations behind. Wander aimlessly, allowing your body to take you wherever it wants.

Step 3:

Stop from time to time to observe your surroundings. Study the minute details of a leaf, or notice the asymmetrical pattern of trees. Be attentive.

Step 4:

Find a comfy spot to take a seat and listen to the sounds around you. Notice how birds and other animals adjust to your presence.

Step 5:

If embarking with others, agree to resist any verbal communication until the end of your excursion, so as not t0 distract each other.

Step 6 (optional):

Focus on a single thought, be it broad or specific, then delve into the depth of your thoughts to allow for some self-reflection. (This is a bit of my own input.)

The Root of the Problem

I recently visited Shoreview Park, which is situated right next to SCC’s campus.
This time, I didn’t take my phone or any other distractions with me — just my house keys and a mask, which was pocketed while I was alone so I could fully immerse my senses.
Once I completed steps 1-5, I attempted step 6. It was strange not having my phone in hand, constantly checking updates and notifications.
I felt that this instinct was an appropriate response, given that my smartphone more or less resides within arms’ reach. It led me to wonder: Have people become so attached to their devices that they’ve genuinely forgotten to appreciate the present?
As cliché as it sounds, our generation has grown far too reliant on personal technology. Sure, networking sites such as Instagram and Facebook have connected millions; but recently, I’ve noticed that the constant use of social media can also dilute the meaning of a moment.
Apps like TikTok exemplify this, wherein spouses and parents post familial milestones in an effort to appear trendy. I’m sure we’ve all been warned about the hazards of overusing technology, but what of its effects on socialization?
I, too, am guilty of consuming my fair share of social media. However, my harmonizing experience with nature provided me with a new perspective on how we use (or rather, shouldn’t use) our devices — especially during social interactions.