Before you go there, this has nothing to do with what you normally think of when you think of bathing. Now follow me into the forest. (That wasn’t supposed to sound ominous, but I hear it now.) With Park and Recreation managing more than 8,200 acres of nature preserves, there’s a good chance there’s a forest near you just waiting for you to explore.

What is Forest Bathing?

The Japanese Ministry for Agriculture coined the phrase shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, in the 1980s. It describes healing through being fully in nature. It’s not a hike or run or really physical exercise of any sort. You don’t need any special tools. In fact, if you have any special tools, leave them behind. This is about being present.

How to Forest Bathe

If you’re saying, “Not another person telling me to exercise,” you’re in luck. Forest bathing is pretty much the opposite of exercise. If you’ve lived in other places, you might have heard this called a mindfulness walk. You’re there to just soak up the sights and sounds of the natural world. Use all five of your senses. Wander. Notice. Look. Follow. Follow the sights, follow the sounds, follow the stream, follow your heart, as long as it’s on the trail.

While it can be difficult to completely eliminate the sounds of living in a large and largely urban area, our nature preserves can get you pretty close. These areas protect our highest quality forests, grasslands, wetlands, rare species habitats and water quality.

The Benefits of Forest Bathing

Obviously being one with nature isn’t a new concept. Humans have been doing that for millennia. Now we just have some science to back it all up. If you need a little inspiration or can’t leave your desk/couch right now, we also have some tiny moments of zen.

If you’d like to get deep into the science, the National Institute of Health shared a review of studies about the link between being in nature and health. It found evidence for “associations between exposure to nature and improved cognitive function, brain activity, blood pressure, mental health, physical activity and sleep.” They added, “Evidence from experimental studies suggested protective effects of exposure to natural environments on mental health outcomes and cognitive function.” Wow! The potential for better sleep, better brain activity, improved mental health? Sign me up!

Get Out There

Good bye notifications, I’m going to be with nature. See you there — but quietly.

(This is probably the last time you have to hear us mention bathing of any kind.)